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God's mercy towards the penitent

"The heralds of the truth and ministers of divine grace, who have explained to us from the beginning right down to our own time each in his own day the saving will of God, say that nothing is so dear and loved by him as when men turn to him with true repentance.

Wishing to show that this is by far the most holy thing of all, the Divine Word of God the Father (the supreme and only revelation of infinite goodness) deigned to dwell with us in the flesh, humbling himself in a way no words can explain. He said, he did, and he suffered those things which were necessary to reconcile us, while we were yet enemies, with God the Father, and to call us back again to the life of blessedness from which we had been alienated. Not only did he heal our diseases with his miracles, and take away our infirmities by his sufferings, and, though sinless, pay our debt for us by his death like a guilty man. It was also his desire that we should aim to become like himself in love of men and in perfect mutual charity, and he taught us this in many ways.

He taught it when he proclaimed, ‘I came not to call the righteous but sinners, to repentance.’ And again, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’ He also said that he had come to seek and to save the lost sheep; and on another occasion, that he had been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In the same way, in the parable of the lost coin, he referred in a symbolic way to the fact that he had come to restore in men the royal likeness which had been lost by the evil-smelling filthiness of passions. Likewise, he said: ‘Just so, I tell you, there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.’

He taught it when he brought relief, with oil, wine and bandages, to the man who had fallen among thieves and had been stripped of all his clothing and left half-dead from his injuries. Having placed him on his own beast, he entrusted him to the innkeeper; after paying what was needed for his care, he promised that when he came back he would repay whatever more was spent.

He taught it when ‘he said that the prodigal son's all-loving father took pity on him and kissing him as he came running back repentant, clothed him once more with the beauty of his glory, and did not reproach him in any way for what he had done.

He taught it when he found the sheep which had strayed from the divine flock of a hundred, wandering over hills and mountains. He did not drive it or beat it but brought it back to the fold. In his mercy, placing it on his shoulders, he restored it, with compassion, unharmed to the rest of the flock.

He taught it when he cried, ‘Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’, and ‘Take my yoke upon you.' By ‘yoke’ of course he meant ‘commandments’ or a life lived according to the principles of the gospel; by ‘burden’ he meant the labour which repentance seems to involve. ‘For my yoke,’ he says, ‘is easy and my burden light.’

Again teaching divine righteousness and goodness he commanded, ‘Be holy, be perfect, be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful’, and, ‘Forgive and it shall be forgiven you’' and ‘whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them’."

A reading from the letters of St Maximus the Confessor (Letter II)



Lord God, you crown the merits of the saints and pardon sinners when they repent. Forgive us our sins, now that we come before you, humbly confessing our guilt. 
(We make our prayer) through our Lord. 
(Through Christ our Lord.)

Prepared by Pontifical University Saint Thomas Aquinas