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How to Choose God's Way

In last month’s issue, I wrote about the mercy of God. Mercy is part of the revelation of who God is. It is essential to understand it (as far as we are able) because Jesus has asked us: Love one another as I have loved you. (See John 15:12 and Lk. 6:27)

God never commands without imparting the grace and power for us to comply. He calls us to be more like him and – little by little, by the grace of God – we can. The first step is to put our wills behind God’s call to each of us. We can refuse, but then we never come to the point where we really share life in God – a life that brings true peace and hope and joy even in difficult circumstances. His ways are often not our ways. Sometimes, to our human and very finite minds, his way seems foolish and we tend to reject, without bowing down before God and asking him to teach us his way and to give us his power (the Holy Spirit) to carry out his will. In this article, I want to share with you the true stories of two people who chose God’s way over their own way and the fruit it bore.

The first was an elderly World War II veteran who also was a widower. Two years ago, two men appeared at his door, posing as electrical company workers, asking if they could check “his lines.” After he let them in, they proceeded to beat him unmercifully, demanding money. A neighbor found him some time later, and called the ambulance and the police. The man’s cheekbones and jaw were broken, along with many of his ribs. When he was able, he told the police all he could. The men were tracked down and arrested. When I visited him in the hospital, never did he show anger. Instead, he spoke of the needs of those who visited and shared stories of his own. Another one of his visitors, a young woman, said to me, “I want to be like him.” There was a peace about him that touched everyone who met him…

Later, in court during the trial, he identified those who had assaulted him and testified to what they had done. To the two criminals, he said, however, that he had forgiven them and hoped they could turn their lives around. The judge said that, in his 35 years on the bench, he had never witnessed anything like it. This elderly man’s body had been badly wounded, but not his spirit!

Spiritual lesson: Remember what I said in the previous article. Pope John Paul II told us: Mercy is not the opposite of justice. It is the opposite of resentment and revenge. We can pursue legal justice without resentment and the desire for revenge. God will give you the grace to participate in his mercy, if you ask for it.

The second story involves a single mother who worked tirelessly so that her son could go on to college. Her son got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up in the crossfire of a drug deal “gone bad.” He was murdered. You can scarcely imagine the pain of that mother. Yet, with prayer and good counsel, she was able, seven months later, to walk into the courtroom grieving, but at peace. She saw the grandmother of the boy who murdered her son – a grandmother who had tried to raise her grandson the best she could, only to have to witness her grandson tried and found guilty of murder! The murdered boy’s mother went across the courtroom, embraced the grandmother and said: “We both have lost children.” She then went on to develop a foundation to raise money for the children of the poor and underprivileged in the city where her son died. She wanted those poor to have a real chance to rise above the poverty and darkness. She extended the mercy of God.

Spiritual lesson: Extending forgiveness to those who seem to deserve the opposite takes courage and faith. It takes support and wise counsel, but if we respond to the grace, we can become more and more like God – mercy that will endure forever by its effects; mercy that will greet us on the day each of us stands before him. “Equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows.” (Sirach 2:18)

May we admit our own need and receive God’s mercy and may we extend it to those who still walk in darkness and the shadow of death.