and turn not aside, lest you fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust in Him,
and your reward will not fail;
you who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
for everlasting joy and mercy.
Consider the ancient generations and see:
who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken?
Or who ever called upon Him and was overlooked?
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
He forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.
Today's first reading from Sirach was exactly what I needed to catapult me into Lent. Yesterday I drove back to Michigan from my month stay in Tennessee. At 3pm I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and spent the hour in mediation and contemplation. The presence of God was so strong and I knew everything would be alright.
I felt the Lord telling me to focus on mercy during Lent. Both receiving and giving.
Mercy is more than just forgiveness or clemency. Mercy reaches out to want, misery, or suffering. The Incarnation of Christ, every miracle he performed, and the crucifixion. are all expressions of Divine Mercy. The Psalms say His mercy endures forever.
"Miserere" is the Latin word for mercy. "Misericordia", means "heart of mercy" and is usually translated as compassion (For instance: Salve Regina, mater misericordiae). At every Mass we pray Kyrie Eleison (in Greek) or "Lord, have mercy". It is both something God does and something He IS. Through the Holy Spirit God's merciful love pours into our hearts the power to grow in faith, hope, and love, and to serve Him with joy.
What is human mercy? St. Thomas Aquinas defined mercy in general as "the compassion in our hearts for another person's misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him." Our sensitivity to others should result in action.
What does Sirach say? Wait for His mercy. And what should we do while waiting? Don't get distracted and turn away, trust in Him, hope for good things. Then Sirach reminds us of God's reputation for mercy: consider the ancient generations and see.
What conclusion can we draw? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; He forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.
Who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken? This is an important reminder as we start the Lenten journey. It should be a time of heroic virtue and growth. A time to conquer passions and uproot habitual sins. Persevere on the Lenten path and your reward will not fail.