Mercy Like Christ’s

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of the Christian life is asking the Lord for grace to bless our enemies and to love them.

Today I like to give you the example of St. Maria Goretti, who was born in 1890 in Italy. Her father began to work for a landlord south of Rome and made a deal with another family who would share the same house with them. Unfortunately, Maria’s father died of malaria. Alessandro began to cause trouble for Maria. Her big mistake was that she did not tell her mother because she did not want to cause trouble. One day he wanted to take her to the bedroom, but she refused shouting, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it.

He stabbed her fourteen times. In addition to this horrible pain, she underwent twenty hours of surgery without anesthesia. During that time she forgave Alessandro and prayed for him. On the following day, she died. Alessandro was sentenced to thirty years of hard labor. While he was in prison, Maria appeared to him in his cell. She smiled and was surrounded by lilies symbols of purity. That was the turning point in Alessandro’s life.

His first deed after release from prison was to visit Maria’s mother and ask her pardon. He accompanied her to Christmas Mass in the parish church where he spoke before the congregation, acknowledging his sin and asking forgiveness from God and the community. In June 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized Maria Goretti declaring her to be a saint and martyr before a huge crowd. Her mother was there with her four children.

There are other well-known examples of forgiveness in the Scriptures. The patriarch Joseph in the latter part of the book of Genesis (Gen 37-50) was also the subject of jealousy. His brothers sold him into slavery and he ended up down in Egypt but rose to second in command to Pharaoh. During the famine, he forgave his brothers when they came looking for food. They had been merciless to Joseph but he was merciful to them. He invited the entire family down to Egypt as guests of Pharaoh.

The first reading tells us that David was merciful to King Saul. King Saul tried to kill David twice, and twice David could have killed King Saul but did not. David spared the life of King Saul twice; once in the cave where David cut off the corner of his cloak instead of killing him (1st Sam 24); and once when David took away his spear and jar of water when he was asleep instead of killing him (1st Sam 26). David was very merciful to King Saul.

Jesus gives his disciples a challenge. He tells them: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you.” Jesus challenges us at the deepest level of our being. Each one of us has been wounded, betrayed or rejected at differing times in our lives. Jesus shows us the perfect example of how to love our enemies through His Crucifixion You can reflect on Jesus’ life and character, he demonstrated how much he loved those who were against him. Remember when he was on the cross, he said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This can only flow from a heart that has been transformed by the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus continually invites us not only to free the individual who wounded us but also to free ourselves from the pain, anger, and hurt that binds us. Jesus is patient and yet persistent. He continually invites us and calls us to forgive. Thus today we can take one small step in this direction.

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