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      Divine benevolence is expounded in Jesus' parables of mercy of the prodigal child returning into a pitying and loving embracement of a benevolent parent, the coin lost and recovered and the sheep lost and reclaimed again. The parable of the prodigal child portrays three figures: the merciful father (representing God our Father), who is boundlessly merciful and forgiving, capable of calmly awaiting both - a return of his younger son, and a favorable change of the heart of his other son; the older son - loyal, devoted and hard-working yet also self-seeking, resentful and invidiously disposed toward his brother; and the younger son - defiant, restless, refractory or insubordinately disposed character and the challenger of experience. The parable represents a "tragedy of lost dignity, the awareness of squandered sonship," and in a secondary way, it brings into light "every breach of the covenant of love, every loss of grace, every sin." This occurrence which is prevalent in human existence is rightfully considered by Rainer Maria Rilke as the representational typification of children who are unwilling to accept parental love or simply to be loved (who refuse God's love) leaving the house of a parent whose vocation is to love, who must nonetheless return to their true home in order to reclaim love and find genuine contentment. God neither grows weary of waiting for the children who became defiant and do not wish to return home, nor does He tire of waiting for the change of heart of those who although devoted to Him still need to reform their conduct and thinking. Two prodigal children - two wastefully extravagant or improvident personages; one by running away from the Father is in actuality resisting the best, and the second having the best yet intellectually misconstruing the best - misunderstanding that the best always fundamentally and unconditionally entails forgiveness and mercy. As a result of which, the outwardly loyal son becomes unworthy of emulation, and the erring and amoral son upon his return home becomes an exemplary character - clearly serving as a model of imitation. Nonetheless, both are completely and indiscriminately loved by God for the younger is fully forgiven and welcomed with wide-open arms, and the other is understood as well. "Misery and mercy. Not crime and punishment, but crime and mercy" for Jesus states that divine Father "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). While everything can offer resistance, the depth of God's merciful heart offers the only irresistibleness that there can ever be; it is totally prepossessing; it has an overpowering appeal and overriding, and endearing beauty. It brings about radical transformative changes of an individual so that insurgence, disobedience, disregard and selfishness are changed into eager and regardful compliance, meekness, reverence, unselfishness or charitableness and liberality of giving.

     When Jesus was questioned whether He was the Messiah, He retorted: "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them" (Luke 7:22). The restoration of - the sight, hearing ability, the ability to walk, the cleansing of lepers, raising the dead and the restoration of hope for the poor and hopeless all are unchallenged acts of divine mercy - mercy which is perfect and indiscriminate for it reaches all, the foreigners, enemies, the poor, the possessed, the sinners, the handicapped, and yes, even the ones who were already dead. Yet, again, there is no greater assurance of divine mercy than God becoming a person, and although utterly pure and blameless - to completely self-surrender Himself, and self-sacrifice everything even His life; to suffer and to die for entire humanity which is corrupted and guilty so that it could be saved and enjoy the tripersonal God for all eternity! "From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn Me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about My mercy" (Jesus to Saint Faustina). There is no greater - no purer martyrdom, and therefore no greater and no purer act of mercy than this. For it is written, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). Thus, "the Paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy, its living sign at once one of salvation history and eschatological" (The Mercy of God).

     Inscrutableness of God's unending compassionateness and benevolence toward all, His inherent disposition of forgiveness, as well as His eagerness to unburden humanity from superfluous burden, needless concerns or distress can only generate in human mind and soul boundless trust and galvanize action that is distinguished by forbearance and mercifulness toward others as well. Humanity is called to become increasingly merciful: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36); and since unrestricted mercy and love are equivalent with perfection: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48); or "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Saint Paul in his affirmative statement or directive is clear: "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

     Mary is prevalently referred to as the "Mother of Mercy," for "Fittingly, the Merciful One has a merciful Mother" (Romanus the Melodist). No one else indeed knows the profoundness of divine mercy than Mary does, which attains the point of greatest force and intensity at the crucifixion of her Son wherefrom the Mother of Mercy becomes the Mother of the Church. Kept and protected in perfect innocence (or immaculateness) - free from fault, error and sin by the Mercy of God, the Mother of Mercy was full of grace (meaning that she continuously received divine mercy in its fullness) becoming thus, not only the symbol of this mercy but also its powerful, authoritative and influential Declarer. The completeness or fullness of grace is the manifestation of her inviolability and sanctity. In reference to Mother Mary, Theophanes of Nicea (d. 1381) affirms, "She, in truth, and without any fiction, is the divine mercy, for she is filled with bounty, mercy, and sustaining love... She is the vessel that can contain this goodness in all its fullness... After all, the bowels of the divine mercy are she herself." Her merciful heart is perpetually turned to all, yet in times of adversity in particular, she steps down to urge and propel the sorrowful and afflicted through her powerful love and prayers to step forward; to advance despite opposition and difficulty - to invest vigorous and insistent effort toward the end. To step down in order to press and encourage her children to step forward - this is the sublime virtuousness of motherhood! Saint Alphonsus referred to Mother Mary as the mother who is "all eyes, to the end that she may hasten to our assistance on this earth." 

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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