SASKATOON — God manifests his power above all by showing mercy, said Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, during a Year of Mercy series of talks in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
“It is not by creation or by the providential care of creation, but above all by pardoning and showing mercy,” that God manifests who God is, Wiesner said, quoting an opening prayer from the eucharistic celebration for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Pope Francis has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy to help us reflect more deeply about God’s mercy and to remind ourselves to show mercy to our sisters and brothers, said Wiesner in his presentation Feb. 28 as part of a Year of Mercy lenten series organized by the diocesan Foundations: Exploring Our Faith Together office.
In exploring the meaning of a “gracious God, a God rich in mercy” who “consoles us so we can console one another,” it is necessary to begin with Scripture and discover “God shares about God’s self and God’s relationship with us.”
Beginning with Exodus, where Moses discovers a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” Wiesner explored the concept of “hesed,” which expresses God’s unconditional love for us — unmerited, undeserved and unearned, and surpassing human imagination.
“God is faithful. God keeps that steadfast love,” he said. “God sees our wretchedness and God still stretches out God’s hand to us.”
The mercy of the Father is lived and revealed by Jesus Christ, described Wiesner, the retired bishop of Prince George, who is now living in Saskatoon. “Pope Francis says that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.”
It is God’s mercy that can be seen in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, he said, citing the compassion he has for the widow whose son has died in St. Luke’s Gospel, and the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
The story of the prodigal son is really the Parable of the Merciful Father, said Wiesner, and it tells us about the nature of God.
The father is patiently, painfully, and eagerly waiting for his child to return. “Here we see God who doesn’t break the crushed reed or quench the wavering flame,” Wiesner said. “It is the father who takes the initiative.”
The father responds in joy, love and welcome, reflecting the parable of the lost sheep, seeking the one who is lost and having a celebration when the beloved returns.
“What we see here is that mercy and reconciliation affects relationships. It is not the sin that’s forgiven, it is the sinner who’se forgiven. It is not things that are affected by mercy, but persons that are affected by mercy.”
Our challenges is to share that love with others, to absorb evil rather than trying to pay it back. “Our call is to try and live out in our lives the mercy that God has shared with us,” he said. “We receive that mercy and we are called to pass it on.”
Citing the words of a child, Wiesner said that the path of discipleship is about being “samples” of Jesus in the world, manifesting God’s unending love in our acts of mercy, in our forgiveness, in our affirmation of others.
“Jesus brought two commandments together, love of God and love of neighbour,” he said. “There is no love of God without love of neighbour.” But the radical love of neighbour that Jesus demands is not possible without the radical love of God, Wiesner added.
“We are ambassadors of reconciliation, ambassadors of mercy,” said Wiesner. “We are loved by God so that we can reach out and love one another.”
He pointed out that the Lord’s Prayer is a series of petitions, with only one petition having a condition attached: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . our call to be merciful to others.”
St. Augustine says “that the highest form of almsgiving is to pardon those who have wronged us: this is the gift of the perfect children of God.”
Jesus says to us “be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful,” concluded Wiesner, pointing again to the Parable of the Merciful Father, who is always there waiting, always there to welcome us with open arms. “This causes us to make great effort. At the same time we keep in mind the words of Pope Francis, when he says that God’s mercy is infinite. God will never tire of being merciful to everyone, if only we do not tire of asking for mercy.”
The lenten series for the Year of Mercy also included talks by Bishop Donald Bolen Feb. 21 and by Leah Perrault March 6.