I have witnessed the affliction of my people

On Ash Wednesday, we began Lent with the age-old call to repentance:   “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:12).   That theme continues in today’s second reading and Gospel (Exodus 3:7).   But the first reading is something different.   It’s not about our need to repent;   it’s about God’s free, overflowing mercy.

For the children of Abraham, God’s mercy came in the form of release from slavery in Egypt.   For us, that mercy comes in the form of release from slavery to sin.

God showed mercy and grace to the Israelites, not because they were perfect, but because they were his people and he cared for them.   Likewise, he shows mercy to us because we are his children, and he doesn’t want to see us bound in sin.

Exodus was just the beginning too.   From age to age, God has shown himself to be merciful toward his people.   He told Moses that this is how he should always be remembered:   “The Lord, the Lord, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity” (Exodus 34:6).   Other prophets then continued the teaching, always referring to God as “gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).   Even the psalms praise God’s mercy repeatedly.

When Jesus came, he focused his ministry on the mercy and graciousness of his heavenly Father as well (Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36; 10:37).   But even more important, he showed himself to be the very mercy of God.   He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).   He welcomed tax collectors and sinners as disciples (Luke 15:1-2).   And best of all, he promised the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43).

It’s no wonder that one of the most common sentences Jesus heard while he was on earth was “Have mercy on me!”   It’s a prayer he cannot help but answer!

Word Among Us