A Merciful God
4th Sunday of Lent (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Our readings this Sunday show the contrast between light and darkness, between God’s mercy and human sinfulness. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). On the other hand, the second reading describes the moral and spiritual decay creeping over God’s people, “All the leading priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations” (2 Chron. 36:14). Sin as described here is not just something personal. Sin has social repercussions.

Action starter: What is your prevailing image of God?

The Gospel speaks of the light overcoming the darkness. God’s mercy overcomes human sinfulness, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3:17). This passage from the discourse of Jesus with Nicodemus, came immediately after the gospel story about the cleansing of the temple. (Jn. 2). These two chapters reveal two characteristics of God - the angry God and the compassionate God. God is a God of justice but most of all, the Lord is a God of mercy. We affirm in faith God’s mercy and readiness to forgive during this penitential season of Lent.

A wit wrote that ever since God created us in His image, we have been returning the compliment by creating our own image of God. There is this story about a kindergarten pupil who was quietly drawing in class. The teacher asked her what she was drawing. “I’m drawing God,” was her reply. “But no one has seen God, we do not know what God looks like,” said the teacher. “You will know in a minute, when I finish,” was the child’s confident answer. This Lenten season, we can ask ourselves, what is my image of God? Is God the angry God or is God the merciful God?

Our image of God may have been formed by our experiences with people who influenced us in our growing years. If we have grown up in a very strict household and under authoritarian parents, we may picture God as one who is stern. One favorite ploy of parents when a child misbehaves is to say, “Stop that, Jesus will be angry at you.” That will have some effect on a child’s image of God. On the other hand, in a warm and loving family, we may occasionally have had our share of deserved punishments but we know that we are loved and forgiven. Our image of God may be one who is benevolent and forgiving.

The Lord God’s promise applies to us today, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14).” Lent is a time to take advantage of God’s offer of mercy and healing. The sacrament of confession is available for us. At times during counseling or confession, the penitent asks me, “Is God angry at me?” My answer is , “Look at Jesus on the cross. Is that a picture of God’s anger or God’s mercy?”