Exodus: 33: 7-11; 34: 5b-9, 28
The Lord is Kind and Merciful
Somewhere along the line we may have heard that the God of the Old Testament is a God of judgment and the God of the New Testament is a God of compassion. The implication is that somehow God changed his mind about dealing with people – that he decided to change from being a God of wrath to being a God of mercy. Wrong!
Both readings this morning reveal that God is just in punishing evil, but that he is overwhelming in his mercy. There couldn’t be a more beautiful description of God than in our first reading: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
In complete accord with the sentiment of that reading is the response, Psalm 103 in which we are assured, “the Lord has compassion on those who fear him”. But perhaps one word needs some explanation – the word “fear”.
That word in Hebrew which is translated as “fear” doesn’t mean anxiety or trepidation. Rather, it refers to a spirit of reverence, filled with awe. The person who “fears the Lord” acknowledges his total dependence upon a God who is all loving – and whose love is unconditional.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was such a person. And today we honor her in a new way – through her parents, two simple people living in a forgotten time. From an ancient tradition going back to the second century, only their names have come down to us: Saints Joachim and Anne. Two human beings whose lives intersected – and the choice they made changed history. They married and bore a daughter who became the mother of our Savior. What exemplary parents they must have been!
And so, following their example we proclaim with confidence the words of the psalm: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him”. And we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”, just before receiving Holy Communion: “Deliver us from evil”, we beg – acknowledging the fact that we are prone to sin, but trusting in the goodness of our loving Father who will remove the weeds from our lives. The Lord is indeed kind and merciful.
Fr. Damian Towey, CP is a member of the community at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center,North Palm Beach,Florida.