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How Much Does Mercy Cost?

April 13th, 2012by Fr. Dave Endres

As a teacher, it has not been unusual for one of my students – especially for one of my high school students – to plead with me, “Father, when you grade our tests, have mercy!”

For me to give an extra point or two on an exam is easy. To round up to the next grade doesn’t cost me anything. And if it weren’t for a healthy respect for justice, I could just as easily give all my students A’s.

But that’s not all mercy is about. Mercy often has a cost.

In the Gospel, we hear the story of the man beaten by robbers on the road to Jericho.

For the Samaritan who stops even as others pass by, mercy costs something. Not just a little time and effort, but from his own pocketbook. He cares for the man out of his own funds.  But the man knows it is worth the cost of mercy – to save a human life.

And to the greatest degree, Jesus shows us the cost of mercy: the Cross. His suffering and death make mercy possible.

Some wonder why we celebrate Divine Mercy on the Sunday after Easter. After all, we have just endured 40 days of penance and mortification. More than a few priests have asked why we have to “go back in the confessional” after a dozen or more Lenten penance services.

The perhaps seemingly stark juxtaposition between Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday highlights the connection between Good Friday and that Resurrection morning. The cost of mercy is the cross. And as amazing as it sounds, it is true that we were worth it. Jesus died for everyone past, present, and future so that we might have life.

We can celebrate God’s divine mercy only because of the Cross – the real cost of mercy.

Photo credit: From the National Divine Mercy Pilgrimage, England/flickr: Catholic Church (England and Wales)
Fr. Dave Endres

Fr. David J. Endres is assistant professor of church history and historical theology at Mount St. Marys Seminary/Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati.