Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Word for the Day: Mercy
Having shown up in this vineyard known as the Catholic Church pretty late in the day myself, this parable gives me great comfort.
So too today’s parable of the one lost sheep, the shepherd who “goes in search of the stray,” and the Father’s “rejoicing” over our being found. It is the image of a merciful God who loves us.
And what a contrast it provides from the other two readings: Isaiah 40, which heralds a God of great power and glory, awesome in his creative majesty; and Psalm 96, in which the Lord “comes with power . . . to rule the earth.”
I think sometimes people get hung up in the image of an overpowering God, a mighty and potentially punishing God. But then sometimes I think one must have had a good father oneself to understand that one God the Father can contain both qualities.
My dad was pretty tough on us as children. As I have written in my memoir, he was a member of the last generation to spank children righteously.
But my dad was also a merciful man. When I strayed for many years from the hearthside and from the church he loved, his gaze was always accepting, always forgiving. And as he became sick in his final months and then as he lay dying and his six children gathered around, each of us saw the true father lying before us.
That father would have “left the ninety-nine in the hills” and walked to the ends of the earth to find me. And so through Dad I have a different understanding of this Gospel passage.