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Scandalous Mercy and Tireless Mercy

November 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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Beautiful Mercy (Week 5 of 5)


Mercy is one of those words that's just…used. We toss it around without fully thinking about what it means, what it implies, what trouble it causes.

Scandalous would definitely not have been on the list of adjectives I would have used to describe mercy before reading this book, but consider how Fr. James Mallon describes “scandalous mercy”:

God's mercy is scandalous. It is outrageous, it is transformative, and it differs greatly from excusing. Some offenses are excusable; many are not. Mercy is required when we are faced with the inexcusable and tempted to declare those offenses unforgiveable.

God's mercy is scandalous because it offends our innate sense of human justice. Quite simply, God's mercy is not fair. I think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the poor older brother who quite justly protests the lavishness with which his father welcomes the younger brother home (see Luke 15:11-32). The text is quite clear that the younger brother was motivated not by repentance over his rebellion and rejection of faith, family, and culture, but by self-interest. His was a very “imperfect” act of contrition, as he realized that being a servant in his father's household would provide more creature comforts than his present scenario. His carefully rehearsed apology is smothered by the loving arms of the father, who renders insignificant the self-centered manner of the return of his son, and his many offenses are forgiven as he is welcomed back into the family. That these injuries should be so easily forgiven is humanly unfair and scandalous, and yet it is with this unfair and scandalous mercy that we ourselves have been, or can be, forgiven.

Fr. James Mallon, “Scandalous Mercy,” paragraphs 2-3

Hmm, gee, yes. Scandalous is the right word, isn't it? God is off his rocker, if I'm reading this right…or I'm off mine.

Considering mercy as God intends it, mercy becomes a completely different concept. It turns into something less feel-good and more hard-work. It transforms from a nice Christian idea into a hard Christian reality.

One that I fail at regularly. One that I need daily.

In addition to being scandalous, I love that Fr. Mike Schmitz reminds us of the tireless nature of mercy.

Few commands of Christ are more ignored or overlooked than his instruction to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. It is not merely that forgiveness is difficult to do; it is that very few people understand what forgiveness really is.

It is critical to understand what forgivenes is not.

  • Forgiveness is not saying, “No problem.”
  • Forgiveness is not saying, “There's nothing to forgive.”
  • Forigveness is not forgetting.
  • Forgiveness does not mean that you trust the other person.
  • Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that hte relationship is restored.
  • Forgiveness is not an “event.”

In fact, the Christian ideal of mercy is based on the Christian understanding of justice. The virtue of justice is the act of giving another what he or she is due. Another way to put it is: Justice is paying back what you owe (or getting back what another owes you). Mercy without justice dishonrs everyone involved.

Fr. Mike Schmitz, “Tireless Mercy,” paragraphs 1, 3-4

Without a doubt, the story of the prodigal son and merciful father is one of forgiveness, and the reminder that it's a tireless process—that it wasn't done in a day or an hour or a minute—is one that I need.

Because I need forgiveness. I need to give it…and I need to receive it. And the more I learn, the more I grow, the more I inch along in my spiritual journey, the more I realize that I need forgiveness…and mercy.

We all do. We need a mercy that's scandalous and tireless. And we know right where to find it, don't we?

Reading Assignment:

None! We'll be announcing the next book soon, and we'll start our 2017 round of reading in early January, and we'll be sure to let you know what book we're reading next sometime in December. Enjoy the break! 🙂

Discussion Questions:

1. How have you experienced mercy in a scandalous way? How might you share this experience with someone who needs it from you?

2. Who do you need to forgive or receive forgiveness from? Pray for the grace to accept God's tireless love and mercy as you journey on the path of forgiveness.

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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