God is always ready to have mercy: It’s his nature

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Adam and Eve
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“Where are you?” was God’s first question after the Fall (Gn 3:9).

After the woman and the man had eaten what they shouldn’t have from the tree, they hid themselves from God as he drew near at the cool end of the day. Daily they used to walk together, the Lord and them; but one day, the man and woman didn’t show. They separated themselves from their Creator. They hid themselves, stood him up. It was the moment all human evil began.

This story, this scene, is paradigmatic. It is the origin story of sin, and it explains so much. What is true of this story is true of us, which is what makes it at once sad, beautiful and hopeful. Which, of course, is what true stories do: they tell the whole truth — the good, the bad, the ugly.

June 9 – Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gn 3:9-15

Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

2 Cor 4:13–5:1

Mk 3:20-35

The bad and ugly truth is that, by our sin, we separate ourselves from God. God does not abandon us; rather, we abandon him. The good truth, however, is that God still comes to us asking, “Where are you?” This question, in fact, is the beginning of our redemption, evidence of the relentlessness of God’s love manifest in inexhaustible mercy. All our hope is in that question.

God still seeks us

Where are you? God asks his creatures. The thing is, God still asks this question. Because of our sins, we hide from the Lord; yet because of his love, God still seeks us out. We see this in the Scripture again and again in various ways. In the days of Noah, for instance, when God said he regretted having made us, he didn’t wipe us out (cf. Gn 6:6). Rather, he saved and covenanted a people. Or take the story of the not-too-pious Jacob. God had to wrestle him to the ground; it was God’s initiative, not Jacob’s that kept the promise to Abraham alive. “I am with you,” God said, “I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you” (Gn 28:15).

Or take our Lord, remember his prayer from the night before he died: “I wish that where I am they also may be with me” (Jn 17:24). He prayed this for people who would soon abandon him. Jesus still wanted them near him!

‘Where are you?’ is God’s repeated question. You see my point? I’m trying to tell you something about God’s nature, that it’s always mercy. I mean it — always.

‘Blaspheming’ the Holy Spirit

Which helps us understand what Jesus means when he talks about “blaspheming” the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:29). This is not some one exact sin which a person may accidentally commit; it’s not some sin that is extra heinous or horrible, like something worse than murder. Rather, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is simply to deny the mercy which belongs to God’s nature, to deny that such mercy is also possible for you. In Mark’s Gospel that looks like not recognizing Jesus for who he is. It looks like mistaking him for the accuser instead of the Redeemer.

Which is the spiritually practical point. We must see God not first as our accuser but as our redeemer. Now, I am not saying sin isn’t real or that sin can’t sometimes be mortal. It certainly can be. Rather, I am saying that when we acknowledge our sins, we must always remember what is revealed to be true about God, that his mercy is “from age to age” (Ps 103:17). We must remember that it is we who are inclined to hide from God, not that God would ever run away from us. Where are you? is the question God always asks. He always seeks us. He is always mercy. To deny this is not just to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, it is also the ultimate sadness of despair.

With our sins we hide from God in all sorts of ways: we deny his existence, we make for ourselves false, justifying little gods, we make God into a god, a little deity, that tells us only what we want to hear. We let scrupulosity paralyze us. We do all these silly and sad things. But, nonetheless, God still searches for us, still waits for us, simply wanting to walk with us. Because that’s what God does — seeking the lost until they’re found. Even you.

Father Joshua J. Whitfield

Father Joshua J. Whitfield is pastor of St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas and author of “The Crisis of Bad Preaching” (Ave Maria Press, $17.95) and other books.