Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that illustrates God’s mercy. The Latin word for mercy is misericordia, which designates the suffering of the heart, or compassion—cum patior (I suffer with).
Mercy is identical to what the Old Testament authors refer to as God’s hesed, or tender mercy. It is the characteristic of God, for God is love. The love that obtains among the Trinitarian persons spills over into God’s love for the world that he has made.
Think of a mother’s love for her children. Could you ever imagine a mother becoming indifferent to one of her offspring? But even should she forget, we read in the prophet Isaiah, God will never forget his own. Consider the fact that nothing would exist were it not willed into being by God. But God has no need of anything; hence, his sustaining of the universe is an act of disinterested love and tender mercy.
There is no greater manifestation of the divine mercy than the forgiveness of sins. When G.K. Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic, he answered, “To have my sins forgiven.” This is the greatest grace the Church can offer: reconciliation, the restoration of the divine friendship, the forgiveness of our sins.