Undeserved mercy brings joy, says Collins

Cardinal Thomas Collins says there are two 'flavours' of mercy.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Cardinal Thomas Collins says there are two 'flavours' of mercy.

July 11, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

We should be gracious to other people as God is gracious to us, says Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.

"What a better world it would be if we were all more gracious to one another," he told hundreds of Catholics at Lac Ste. Anne July 1. "Mercy is profoundly important in our life in Christ. It is a thing of which we all have need."

Collins, a former archbishop of Edmonton, was one of several speakers who addressed the Catholic Family Life Conference on the theme of mercy. The Name of God is Mercy was the theme of the event at Lac Ste. Anne from June 30 to July 3. Some 2,000 people attended.

Collins spoke about different passages in Sacred Scripture, including Psalm 51, the psalm of mercy, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan - passages that encapsulate how Christians view mercy.

In his second talk, the cardinal spoke about the merciful disciple and looked at some ways Catholics can make present in this world the mercy of the Lord.

"We don't want to be like the (servant) in Matthew 18, who received great mercy from his master but wasn't able to offer similar mercy to his own servants," he said. "If any of us recognize who we are in our own frailty, we will be more inclined to show mercy to other people."

The reason God gives us his mercy is not only that we might receive it, but that we might share it with others. But first, we need to be aware of our own need for God's abundant mercy.

"If we are, we will be less likely to judge and more likely to be compassionate about the faults of other people, which are so very obvious to us, much more obvious than our own faults."

In the history of God's people, the Lord keeps coming back with mercy even after we have been unfaithful. "His love endures beyond our own infidelities."

The Lord, according to Collins, loves mercy more than sacrifice. "More than our simple worship, he wants mercy with understanding."

The Lord's abiding love is based upon our covenant with the Lord. "God is gracious. Even when we are unfaithful, again and again he comes and shows us mercy," Collins said. "We should be gracious to one another as well, not demanding and harsh, but gracious."

He encouraged his congregation "to be merciful to the people we meet day by day and not be like the unmerciful servant, who only thought about what others owed to him and not what he had received from the master."

Collins said we live in a world with a false vision of mercy, such as in mercy killing, which not is mercy at all but the reverse of it.

FLIPPED-OVER WORLD

"In this world in which we live, everything is flipped over," he lamented. "We need to draw closer to the love and the mercy of Christ and then show that mercy, which in the case of people who are very ill is caring for them."

Christian mercy has two sides, the first being the suffering of sin. "That's why at every Mass we say, 'Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.' It's our need for the loving compassion of the Lord as we are in great vulnerability, which is our sinfulness, our hardness of heart."

MERCY TO THE SUFFERING

The other "flavour" of mercy deals with physical suffering, the poor, the rejected, "the people our Holy Father speaks of being on the margins." This kind of mercy is obvious in the story of the Good Samaritan, who sees someone at the side of the road and gives him help.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father gives mercy to his undeserving son, who squandered his money. The son goes off and spends it all. He is far away, and he has sinned. He has been ungrateful and foolish. But he comes back and experiences the joy of his father's graciousness.

"He knew he didn't deserve it, and that's the point of mercy," Collins said. "Undeserved mercy brings joy."

OUR NEED OF MERCY

The mercy of God always comes from a deep understanding of who we are.

"We need to know we need mercy in order to receive it," the cardinal said. "The ground must be tilled by repentance so we can receive the gift of God's mercy. The sense of repentance is inseparable from mercy.

"The main thing is we need to be conscious of our need for God's mercy and then we will be a little more forgiving of other people," said Collins. "There is no future in being harsh and narrow and absorbed in ourselves."