WDTPRS 26th Ordinary Sunday – The Bowels of Mercy

Our Collect for the 26th Ordinary Sunday, slightly different from its ancestor in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary, is also in the 1962 Missale Romanum for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.

Deus, qui omnipotentiam tuam parcendo maxime et miserando manifestas, gratiam tuam super nos indesinenter infunde, ut, ad tua promissa currentes, caelestium bonorum facias esse consortes.

A consors is someone with whom you share a common destiny (cum, “with” + sors “lot, fate, destiny”).  Parco means, “to spare, have mercy, forbear to injure; forgive.”  We see this verb often in our prayers.  Think of the responses during the litanies: “Parce nobis, Domine… Spare us, O Lord!”

LITERAL VERSION:

O God, who manifest Your omnipotence especially by sparing and by being merciful, pour Your grace upon us unceasingly, so that You may make us, rushing to the things You have promised, to be coheirs of heavenly benefits.

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):

Father, you show your almighty power, in your mercy and forgiveness. Continue to fill us with your gifts of love. Help us to hurry toward the eternal life you promise and come to share in the joys of your kingdom.

CURRENT ICEL (2011):

O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven.

We can slip into the trap of associating justice only with the exercise of power.  Today we affirm the other side of power’s coin: mercy.

Nevertheless, the affirmation of God’s mercy does not diminish God’s justice.

One of the ways God reveals Himself as “almighty” is by being forgiving and sparing.

God knows all things which ever were, are or will be, as well as how each human action impacts every other throughout history. For God, balancing mercy and justice is no problem at all.  For us, however, this balancing act is exceedingly difficult.  Our will and our limited intellect are wounded.  We struggle with passions. It is hard to see what is good and right and true and then rein in our emotions. We oscillate between being just and then being merciful. Bringing the two streams of mercy and justice together in just the right way is a tremendous challenge.  When we encounter a person who does this well, we are deeply impressed by him and hold him up as an example of wisdom because he seems to act more clearly as an image of God.  His example moves us because we know that we too must conform to God’s image.

One way in which we act the most according to God’s image, behaving as Christ’s good consortes, is precisely when we act with compassion.  In biblical language, such as the Hebrew racham, compassion is often interchangeable with mercy.  The Latin word compassio comes from Latin cum+patior, “to suffer/endure with” someone.  We are moved when we witness suffering and attendant compassion because they reveal in a mysterious way who we are as human beings and how we ought to act.

In a famous passage from the Council’s Gaudium et spes, we are taught that Christ came into the world to reveal man more fully to himself (GS 22).  Christ did this in His every word and deed during His earthly life.  His supreme moment of revelation to us about who we are was His Passion and death on the Cross and subsequent rising from the tomb.  When we imitate His Passion, in sacrificial love and in the genuine “with suffering” which is compassion, we act as we were made by God to act.   In sincere and concrete acts of compassion we, in our own turn, reveal man more fully to himself!  We in turn show God’s image to our neighbor.  Only the stony, cold and dead are not be moved by examples of genuine compassion rooted in the sacrificial love which is charity.  Pope John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis 9, that “man cannot live without love”.  By this he meant both the love we give and the love we receive.

Unmerited acts of charity, mercy, and compassion make visible to our neighbor the God after whose likeness we ourselves are fashioned.  In sincere and concrete acts of compassion, in our biblical “bowels of mercy” (Colossians 3:12), we in our turn reveal man more fully to himself.  Individuals can by their example effect great changes in a society.  If one person can do much, how much more could be done by armies of men and women thirsting for holiness and righteousness (i.e., a Church), striving to act in compassion, justice and mercy?

By His justice, God will give us what we deserve.

By His mercy, He will not give us certain elements of what we deserve.

By His pouring forth graces upon us, God gives us what we do not deserve.

God’s justice must be received with joyful trepidation, whether we want it or not.

God’s mercy we must beg with humble confidence.

God’s grace, unmerited by us, we embrace with exultant gratitude.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to WDTPRS 26th Ordinary Sunday – The Bowels of Mercy

  1. Priam1184 says:

    ‘Infunde’ seems to get universally translated as ‘pour forth’; I think of it another way and am curious whether anyone has an opinion on this. It can also be translated as ‘infuse’ and that is the way I think of it. Maybe it is just because I have worked as a cook for so long and my mind naturally goes to God infusing his grace in our minds, hearts, and souls the way one infuses garlic, onions, chilis, etc. into the oil in preparation for making a stew or soup. That way when the rest of the ingredients and the liquid (red wine, etc.) are added that flavored oil gets spread throughout the entire dish. Does this translation work or am I engaged in a flight of fancy?

  2. Tom in NY says:

    @priam1184
    Sensus tuus “infundere” litteris anglicis mihi docet et placet, sed non in Lewis & Short apparet.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Wonderfully written, Fr. Z. Thank you.
    Priam, I love the analogy.

    What Cardinal Burke said on your sideline, Fr. Z. That says it all.
    I wish we were all in North or South Dakota together. (they sound like nice states)

  4. Margaret says:

    That is a beautiful essay, Fr. Z, thank you. It was exactly what I needed to come across just now. I’ll need to chew on some of those ideas for a while…

  5. StWinefride says:

    Thank you, Father Z!

    You say: In a famous passage from the Council’s Gaudium et spes, we are taught that Christ came into the world to reveal man more fully to himself (GS 22).

    I am reminded of a saying of St Camilla Battista Varano, a Poor Clare, who Pope Benedict canonized on 17th October 2010. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20101017_canonizations_en.html

    She encourages everyone to…

    “Ask God for this wonderful revelation:

    May He reveal yourself to you,
    May He make you know who you are,
    How much you can do,
    How much you know,
    And how much you are worth.

    Without this revelation, no one can become a Saint.”

    (St Camilla Battista Varano, 1458-1524)

  6. Bosco says:

    I recall being told long ago that God’s Mercy is the synthesis, i.e. the middle point on the pendulum if you will, between God’s Justice and God’s Charity, Charity being the total and absolute waiver of any and every claim Justice might have a right to make.

    “The love given to those who suffer is a reflection of the divine charity of God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son Jesus Christ.” Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the twenty-fifth Inter-religious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace August 3, 2012.

    Mercy permits mitigation of Justice but not entirely. This may sound like an odd question, but are God’s Mercy and God’s Charity necessarily the same attribute?

  7. gratiam tuam super nos indesinenter infunde
    bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us

    infunde – pour, bestow?

    indesinenter – unceasingly, abundantly ??

  8. Tom in NY says:

    @Henry Edwards:
    Etiam sensus tuus “indesinenter” mihi docet et placet, solo “desinere” in Lewis apparente.
    Salutationes tibi et omnibus.