What is your opinion? Is God fair? Being fair implies that everyone receives justice – they get what they deserve. Everyone is treated with a sense of justice. Mercy, on the other hand, is undeserved forgiveness. Mercy allows a person to turn away from their sins, and receive more than they deserve. Mercy goes beyond fairness. God always gives us more than we deserve, and so it may seem that God is a little unfair. God’s mercy is always shocking to us. God forgives people whom we don’t think deserve the time of day. If God treated us the way we deserve, none of us would be happy.
We often want people to get only what they deserve. We usually want mercy for ourselves, but justice for others. God is merciful to all of us. He loves us all equally, even those who turn away from God. Today's parable is about a father and two sons, both of whom have been asked by their father to serve. The first son says he will not serve, but eventually changes his mind, repents, and goes to serve. The second son says he will serve, but does not actually serve. The first son (the one who says “no” but later repents – changes his mind) changed his ways. Should the father have allowed the son who said “no,” the opportunity to go and serve, or should the father have said – you had your chance and you turned it down, you cannot serve? What would you do? What would God do?
What if several years had passed? What if a member of your family who hurt you years ago, suddenly returns and wants to make amends. The person who hurt you never offers a reason, but is suddenly back in the picture. Do you allow them back? What is your opinion? What would you conclude?
God never refuses the repentant sinner. Pope Benedict said, “The world needs mercy… Where justice is separated from mercy, justice becomes cruel and unjust. Only mercy can keep justice fair.” When there is mercy, people reach out to others in a loving and compassionate way.
The second reading shows us how Jesus reached out to us. It means that even though Jesus is God, Jesus still humbled Himself to become one of us. Jesus didn’t think that because He was so high above everyone, that we didn’t deserve to be redeemed. Jesus is merciful. We are created to be compassionate and merciful, to be of one mind and heart, and to humbly regard others as more important than ourselves. If we are serious about seeing others as more important than ourselves, then we need to be dedicated to continuous repentance.
Today’s readings remind us of the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – confession. It reminds us of the necessity of continually coming back to God. Going to confession on a regular basis (once a month, once every several months, or sooner if you need to) allows us to examine our conduct and thoughts, and measure our progress toward being closer to Jesus. Going to confession haphazardly, or just when something terribly wrong happens, does not always allow for a purposeful change in our lives.
For instance, if we are repeatedly angry with someone, or have a critical attitude about a co-worker, fellow student, or even some family member or friend, we can have a specific goal of healing our hearts, and our relationships. Confession on a regular basis, allows us to move our way of life closer to Jesus. Once a year may be too long to carry the burdens of our repeated sins, and measuring our progress toward being closer to Jesus.
If we have said “no” to God in the past, now is the time to turn to God. We can still repent – change our mind. God will never turn down our sincere repentance.
Today's Gospel gives us hope. We always have the opportunity to confess our sins, and to turn back to God. No matter what we may have done, no matter how long we've been away from the sacrament of reconciliation, no matter how guilty we are, God is there for us.
So, what is your opinion? Is God fair?
I hope that we conclude that God is more than fair – God is merciful.