MERCY, NOT EARNED BUT FREELY GIVEN

March 14, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Lent

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/031421-YearB.cfm)

In the Book of Chronicles, a historical event in the life of the Hebrew people tells us how the Lord showed his mercy. The people who invited destruction and death upon themselves because of their sins and unfaithfulness to God’s covenant, was shown mercy. God did not desire the destruction of His people. It was the people who went towards destruction and death. God, in history, called out again and again His people through the prophets, yet, the people rejected God’s invitation. The time of exile and slavery became a period of purification, not merely as punishment.

Yet, the mercy that God showed, through the person of Cyrus, was God’s initiative. Though the people were not deserving of God’s mercy but God showed mercy because God is Mercy.

The Lord indeed does not forget His people. This is what the Psalm proclaimed to us. The Lord remembers and this is embedded in the heart of the people who also longed to see the Lord. The people who were exiled in a foreign land, subjected to misery and slavery longed to be home and to be embraced by God.

God’s memory is vast. God’s heart is too big. God’s embrace is so wide. This is what the letter of Paul to the Ephesians tells us. Paul reminds us that God grants us the grace not because we are deserving. We will never be deserving, anyway. However, because of God’s great love for us, he showed mercy to us. We are brought to life with Christ. Through this grace, we are saved. However, again, not because of our works, not because we have become deserving. No! God showed mercy to us, because God simply loved us, greatly loved us.

The Gospel of John tells us more about this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus’ presence with us means mercy. The Lord who is with us is grace and mercy made flesh. Jesus will not condemn us but rather save us. Jesus is the grace and the mercy of God being offered to us.

Now, if we cannot earn God’s mercy, does it mean that we do not have to do anything? Remember, Paul said, through faith, we are saved. The Gospel of John also tells us, whoever believes in him, will have eternal life. Thus, it is through faith that we respond to God. Faith is not a passive attitude of being a Christian. Faith is an active response towards God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “faith is a human response of love to God who first loved us.”

Our faith as a response of love is also an expression of gratitude to the Lord. This is what makes our faith alive. Our good works, our expression of piety and charity should not be our way of making God see how good we are that God will become indebted to us for being good. No! However, our honesty and sincerity, our service to others and kindness are our expressions of being grateful to the Lord who showed mercy to us.

With such grace from the Lord, this only calls us to rejoice, to be deeply joyful. In fact, this Fourth Sunday of Lent is also called as Laetare Sunday, meaning “Rejoice.” We, indeed, rejoice because God is for us. God shows us mercy. God gives us the grace through His Son, Jesus, our Lord.

To express better our deep joy, there are two concrete invitations for us today that we may work out this week.

First. Humbly acknowledge our faults, failures and sins, our ways and attitudes that condemn and reject others. As we acknowledge them, this also invites us to become open to God’s offer of mercy and friendship. Thus, seek it through the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation and of the Eucharist.

Second, show mercy and offer your gift of friendship. God showed mercy to us, and so, we are indeed capable to showing mercy and building friendship with others. By showing mercy, this makes our heart generous and kind to people around us.

As we commit ourselves into these invitations may our faith truly become a response of love to God. Hinaut pa.

Paul tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” Thus, salvation is a gift, a grace freely given by the Lord to us. No one can boast himself/herself that one earned God’s grace because grace can never be earned. Salvation is not earned but given. God’s mercy is not earned but given.

The Gospel of John tells us more about this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus’ presence with us means mercy. The Lord who is with us is grace and mercy made flesh. Jesus will not condemn us but rather save us. Jesus is the grace and the mercy of God being offered to us.

Now, if we cannot earn God’s mercy, does it mean that we do not have to do anything? Remember, Paul said, through faith, we are saved. The Gospel of John also tells us, whoever believes in him, will have eternal life. Thus, it is through faith that we respond to God. Faith is not a passive attitude of being a Christian. Faith is an active response towards God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “faith is a human response of love to God who first loved us.”

Our faith as a response of love is also an expression of gratitude to the Lord. This is what makes our faith alive. Our good works, our expression of piety and charity should not be our way of making God see how good we are that God will become indebted to us for being good. No! However, our honesty and sincerity, our service to others and kindness are our expressions of being grateful to the Lord who showed mercy to us.

With such grace from the Lord, this only calls us to rejoice, to be deeply joyful. In fact, this Fourth Sunday of Lent is also called as Laetare Sunday, meaning “Rejoice.” We, indeed, rejoice because God is for us. God shows us mercy. God gives us the grace through His Son, Jesus, our Lord.

To express better our deep joy, there are two concrete invitations for us today that we may work out this week.

First. Humbly acknowledge our faults, failures and sins, our ways and attitudes that condemn and reject others. As we acknowledge them, this also invites us to become open to God’s offer of mercy and friendship. Thus, seek it through the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation and of the Eucharist.

Second, show mercy and offer your gift of friendship. God showed mercy to us, and so, we are indeed capable to showing mercy and building friendship with others. By showing mercy, this makes our heart generous and kind to people around us.

As we commit ourselves into these invitations may our faith truly become a response of love to God. Hinaut pa.

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