For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:11-13
We’ve all had the experience of wondering if someone still loves us. We’ve all had the experience of hoping someone will forgive us. And we’ve all had the experience of needing someone to feel bad for us when we’ve screwed up. Those are not good feelings.
One great thing about having a relationship with the Lord is that He loves us, a lot—Higher than the heavens above the earth, that’s how much He loves us. That’s a lot of love. He will forgive us, a lot—as far as the east is from the west, that’s how much He’s willing to forgive us. That’s a lot of forgiveness. He will be merciful to us, the same way a father is merciful to his children. Those of us who are parents know how our children make us so mad at times, and then almost right away, we’re back to playing with them and laughing with them. The Lord has this kind of mercy for all of us, His children. That’s a lot of mercy.
There is one caveat, for receiving this kind of love, forgiveness and mercy. In fact, it is stated twice in the three verses quoted today. These things—love, forgiveness and mercy—are given to those who fear God. And by fear, we mean a “deep respect, an awe” of God. In our humanity, we are all going to make mistakes, even intentional mistakes. If we have a love of a mistake-filled life, and if we seek out opportunities to make mistakes, we are not going to receive the love, forgiveness and mercies of God. When we seek to do the right things, when we are struggling, even when we are failing, we can still garner the love, forgiveness and mercy of God. For God knows our intentions. He does not rejoice in our failures but in our triumphs. And He also does not look only to our success, but to our effort. If we are making a sincere effort to live a life of faith, with genuine love for Christ, love for our neighbor and sincere repentance (an effort to change the things that take us away from Christ), then these Psalm verses should be read with comfort and reassurance.
Speaking about love for our neighbor for a moment, we have to remember that if we hope for the love, forgiveness and mercy of God, part of our “fear of God” (our respect for His commandments) is offering these things—love, forgiveness and mercy—to our neighbor.
The Lord can be described as easy to entreat, and easy to forgive. The fifth prayer of the Sacrament of Holy Unction (Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas) speaks of our Lord, as the one “Who without toil bears our weaknesses, and accepts our infirmities. . .Who cheerfully shows mercy, and passes over our iniquities, taking away our unrighteousness; quick to help and slow to wrath.” And Psalm 103:17-18 tells us “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.”
This should inspire action in us—to trust in God, to love our neighbor—and give us confidence that if we are sincere in our effort, He will be generous in His love, forgiveness and mercy towards us.
Today’s prayer is taken from the 6th Prayer of the Sacrament of Holy Unction (Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas):
Hear me, Your humble, sinful and unworthy servant, praying to You at this hour. For You are the Lord, Jesus Christ, Who in Your mercy and love for mankind, commanded us to forgive those, who fall in sin, even unto seventy times seven; Who laments for our wickedness, and rejoices over the return of those, who have strayed. For as is Your Majesty, so also is Your mercy, and to You we ascribe glory; together with Your Father, Who is from everlasting, and Your All-Holy, and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Be inspired in your struggles today. God has confidence in you and will reward you with love, forgiveness and mercy if we offer Him effort by loving Him and loving others!