Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday in Lent III - Fr Damian Feeney

The Vice-Principal, Fr Damian Feeney, gave this homily at the Mass on Tuesday in the third week of Lent. The readings for the Mass can be found here.

Our readings point to the quality which we believe, and most naturally hope, that God will display towards us, and towards the whole of creation – that of mercy. Azariah, stood in the heart of the fire, reminds God that he is a God of mercy, and of gentleness, who grants deliverance to his people. Peter is reminded by Jesus that his capacity to forgive must be infinite, and the parable which follows reminds us that as God forgives us much, we should be ready to forgive the relatively small slights that are done to us by others. Every Mass we celebrate uses the words ‘May Almighty God have mercy on us…’ – a form of absolution I prefer because it doesn’t do to assume God’s mercy – as the parable reminds us. It’s only when the debtor – who, by the way, has amassed a debt which would make merchant bankers tremble – more like a national than a personal debt – falls at the king’s feet in abject despair, that the king’s heart softens. But soften it does, and this immense sum of money is cancelled. This makes what follows all the more shocking, as the one who is forgiven, forgetting all that has gone before, cannot find it in his heart to forgive the most trivial of debts. In that moment of harsh pomposity and abuse of power, the first debtor blows it. Word reaches the king, and his anger is complete, and absolutely justifiable.

‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’ – words we utter at least three times a day. Our understanding of the mercy we show derives from our sense of what God in Christ has done for us – taken on, and disposed, of, the massive weight of sin which is part of the consequence of our humanity – and which, compared to the day to day injuries we may suffer, would otherwise paralyse us. All of this would be enough, but as Bishop Edward King reminds us, ‘God will not only check the consequences of our sins, but even turn them into blessings.’ This is an astonishing and radical claim – but in God’s economy it is possible, and true. And we play our part, by being merciful, by cancelling wrongdoings, by not insisting on the last ounce of what we might consider justice. Our mercy needs to be generous, even in the smallest of things - if we would change the world – because it needs to hold to the same reckless, generous, wasteful mercy of our Lord.