Monday of the Second Week of Lent
(Daniel 9:4b-10; Luke 6:36-38)
Abraham’s Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address assigns responsibility for the Civil War to both sides in the conflict. It does not justify the actions of either government but accepts the punishment as fairly given. Similarly, as the Church was about to celebrate the bicentennial of Jesus Christ, Pope St. John Paul II confessed sins of the past. He asked pardon for such outrages as persecution under the Inquisition, violence during the Crusades, and extermination of Jews. Today’s readings encourage such humility and even more promotes human mercy.
The first reading would be extraordinary if done today. A great nation admits guilt for disobeying its constitutional principles. Nothing in the passage asks directly for mercy. Nevertheless, the people have been so humbled that they cannot but ask God’s forgiveness. In the gospel Jesus exhorts his disciples to imitate God the Father by readily showing mercy. He goes so far as to say that God’s mercy to them is contingent upon their mercy to others.
We have as much difficulty showing mercy as we have asking forgiveness. We see mercy as a sign of weakness and want to be perceived as strong. The truth, however, is the opposite. Mercy becomes us. As the heroine says in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “’T is the mightiest in the mightiest.”