In today’s Responsorial Psalm we proclaim: “The Lord is gracious and merciful.” As this psalm brings out clearly, Jesus was not the first to proclaim a God of mercy and compassion, since it is found throughout the Old Testament, Jesus’ bible. Today’s Psalm goes on to proclaim that the “Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.” What does it mean to say that God is kind or gracious and merciful? It means that while God is both just and merciful, he is “more merciful” than he is just as we see in today’s first reading from Hosea.
Hosea the prophet in today’s first reading embodies this mercy of God. It is difficult to tell at times if Hosea is speaking of Israel or his own wife. In any case both have been unfaithful and have apostatized or turned away from their “husband.” While justice demands that they be punished and sent away, Hosea/God “courts” their spouse and “allures” her and “speaks to her heart.” Hosea/God instead of divorcing her remarries her with these wedding vows: “I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy. I will espouse you in fidelity.” Hosea/God has been shamed by the unfaithfulness of Israel but instead of dealing according to the strict dictates of justice God forgives and renews his relationship with Israel. In a similar way in the Parable of the Prodigal Father (Son), the Father “embarrasses himself” by going out to both sons and showing mercy and compassion to both instead of demanding that they show contrition as the strict dictates of justice would demand.
Today as we celebrate our freedom as a country, we pray for all of those who have suffered and died for our freedom. We pledge that we are “one nation under God.” As a nation under God’s protection and direction we are called and challenged to be “kind and merciful” as God is kind and merciful.