Daily Meditation: "Your Father in heaven (…) doesn't want even one of these little ones to be lost"
Gospel text (Mt 18,12-14):
Jesus said to his disciples, "What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won't he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you: when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it than about the ninety-nine that did not get lost. It is the same with your Father in heaven: there they don't want even one of these little ones to be lost".
"Your Father in heaven (…) doesn't want even one of these little ones to be lost"
Today, Jesus challenges us: "What do you think of this?" (Mt 18:12): what kind of mercy do you practice? Perhaps, we, “practicing Catholics”, having drunk copiously of God's mercy in his sacraments, could come to a point to think that we are already justified in the eyes of God. We run the danger of unconsciously becoming the pharisee who slights the tax-collector (cf. Lk 18:9-14). Though we might not speak it aloud, we might think that we are already blameless before God. Some symptoms of this pharisaical pride taking root could be impatience before the defects of others; or thinking we are already beyond reproach.
The disobedient prophet Jonah, a Jew, was adamant when God showed pity the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Yahweh reproached Jonah’s intolerance (cf. Jon 4:10-11). His human outlook set a limit to divine mercy. Do we also set limit to God's mercy? We too have to heed Jesus' lesson: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). In all likelihood, we still have a long way to go to imitate God's mercy.
How should we understand the mercy of our heavenly Father? Pope Francis said that "God does not pardon with a decree but with an embrace". God's embrace of each one of us is called “Jesus Christ”. Christ manifests God's fatherly mercy. In John chapter four, Christ did not make light of the sins of the Samaritan woman. Instead, God's mercy heals by helping the Samaritan woman come face to face with the full reality of her sin. God's mercy is fully consistent with truth. Mercy is not an excuse to cut corners. Yet, Jesus must have elicited her repentance with so much tenderness that the adulterous woman felt herself “wounded by love” (cf. Jn 8,3-11). We too have to learn how to help others come face to face with their mistakes without shaming them, with great respect for them as fellow brothers in Christ, and with tenderness. In our case, also with humility, knowing that we ourselves are “vessels of clay”.
Fr. Damien LIN Yuanheng
Audio: Tuesday 2nd of Advent