Psalm: 78:40-72
Gospel: John 7:37-52
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus

Peter Chrysologus offers us the follwing reflection tonight:

To make [prayer and fasting] acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

It took me a while to grasp the whole mercy thing. Normally, I’m all for justice and restitution….I want to see the world as a fair place…….and yet we have a God whose fundamental message is one of forgiveness and grace…….of people getting exactly what they do not deserve; perfect pardon and peace.

Without getting into too many specifics or airing my laundry in the blogosphere…..I will say that a few years ago, there was a pretty significant rift in my family over an affair that was had. Virtually everyone close to me was affected by it in some way, and I was really angry at the perpetrator. 😛

I couldn’t understand how–despite this betrayal–the couple stayed together. At first, it seemed like they were ignoring the issue and pretending that it never happened.

As I learnt more however, I realized that the person who was cheated on, kept the relationship going because she thought it was in the best interests of the family. Ironically, my anger then switched from the perpetrator to the victim.

So much so that I told her that I would not forgive her. 😦 My mercy was far from exemplary on that day 😛

Luckily, we have since been reconciled…..but that was the first time I actually had to forgive someone for anything bigger than a white lie, or stealing some inconsequential property.

Mercy is a cool thing to talk about…a piece of theology that is lovely to speak about……but one of those doctrines that is incredibly difficult to live out in praxis. :S

One thing about mercy and forgiveness though, is that it has the potential to heal both the offender and the offended. It doesn’t mean that the scars disappear, or that the pain is nonexistent……but it does mean that the pain is not crippling…..and leads us to empathy for all of our sisters and brothers who have just as many broken relationships, and unresolved emotions as we do. +