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Mercy Is Life

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©Heidi Bratton Photography

The feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated by the Catholic Church on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday. At least one of the purposes of celebrating this feast in the heart of the Easter season is to remind us that the salvific death of the now risen Lord, replete with the promise of Resurrection and eternal happiness for those who believe in and follow Him, is the ultimate act of mercy. As it is written in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Therefore, [Jesus] had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.” Heb. 2:17” Indeed St. Paul taught till his death that it was out of undeserved mercy that Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:3-6).

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, articulated the great truth that is, so to speak, the other side of the words in the Letter to the Hebrews and in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians about the Incarnation: God’s mercy truly brings salvation to fallen human beings, but it is God’s mercy that brings human beings from non-being into being in the first place. “We may say, for instance, that … being man is on account of the divine goodness. So in every work of God, viewed at its primary source, there appears mercy. In all that follows, the power of mercy remains, and works indeed with even greater force” (Summa Theol., Ques. 21, Art. 4). That is, the something of each of us was created from nothing for no reason other than merciful love. 

St. Paul said as much to the Christians in Rome: “[Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist” (Rom. 4:17). St. Augustine later made the same point: “[Creation] cries out that it has been created” and that that “it did not create itself: [I] exist because I am created; and I was not before I came to be…” (St. Augustine, Confessiones, XI, 4, PL xxxii, c. 812). 

In short, we exist only because God chose to bring us into being. We did not have to exist. There was no necessity that we be created. But God is love, and our creation as human beings is nothing less than the incarnation of His mercy within time and history. This is why the abuse and destruction of God’s incarnated mercy, most especially the innocent unborn, is inherently evil. 

Saint Faustina, the saint of divine mercy, wrote in her diary about a terrible experience that she endured, which was related to the flesh and blood consequence of those who obscenely promote killing of the unborn, and regularly justify it as a merciful act. “At eight o’clock I was seized with such violent pains that I had to go to bed at once. I was convulsed with pain for three hours….. No medicine had any effect on me, and whatever I swallowed I threw up. At times, the pain caused me to lose consciousness. Jesus had me realize that in this way I took part in His Agony in the Garden, and that He himself allowed these sufferings in order to offer reparation to God for the souls murdered in the wombs of [their] mothers” (#1276 

The abortionists and the pro-abortion politicians in our society would quickly dismiss Saint Faustina’s profound experience. But oddly, neither the abortionists nor the pro-abortion politicians, especially Catholic pro-abortion politicians, would likely deny that God created them. The current radically pro-abortion president of the United States would probably admit that his existence is at least related in some fashion to the mercy of God. But the president and his pro-death allies have created a false distinction between their human lives and the human lives of the unborn, making humanity and human rights depend not on the existence of human life itself, but on the mere process of human birth. However, a child in the womb is no less one who has been fashioned and called into being by God than any other human being on this planet earth.

As the Church has never tired of telling the world, and American citizens and their politicians in particular, abortion is a denial of the humanity of the baby who is murdered by that cruel act.  But it is more. God is mercy, and mercy is life. Abortion is a denial of divine mercy. For that reason it is a rejection of God Himself.

(© 2011  Robert J. Gieb)


Robert J. Gieb has practiced probate law in Ft. Worth, Texas for forty years. He is local counsel for Catholics United For Life of North Texas.
  • noelfitz

    This is a very serious article that deserves to be read with care. The fifth commandment tells us “you shall not kill”. Thus abortion and the death penalty are fundamentally wrong.

    However the author misjudges the point St Thomas was making in question 21, article 4, of the ‘Summa’ “Whether in every work of God there are mercy and justice?”

    Thomas seems to fundamentally disagree with Mr Gieb, who seems to be claiming that in every act of God there is mercy, without mentioning justice, while Thomas’ point is that both mercy and justice are in every act of God.

    Mr Gieb does not mention God’s justice and hence misinterprets St Thomas.

    I hope you do not think I am being pedantic, but to use St Thomas incorrectly is unnecessary, as abortion is so obviously wrong.
    *********************************
    DETAILS:

    St Thomas notes:
    Objection 1: It seems that not in every work of God are mercy and justice. For some works of God are attributed to mercy, as the justification of the ungodly; and others to justice, as the damnation of the wicked. Hence it is said: “Judgment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy” (James 2:13). Therefore not in every work of God do mercy and justice appear.

    Thomas goes on to claim:
    On the contrary, It is said (Ps. 24:10): “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth.”
    I answer that, Mercy and truth are necessarily found in all God’s works.

    Finally he notes:
    Reply to Objection 1: Certain works are attributed to justice, and certain others to mercy, because in some justice appears more forcibly and in others mercy. Even in the damnation of the reprobate mercy is seen, which, though it does not totally remit, yet somewhat alleviates, in punishing short of what is deserved.
    In the justification of the ungodly, justice is seen, when God remits sins on account of love, though He Himself has mercifully infused that love. So we read of Magdalen: “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much” (Lk. 7:47).

    *****************************************************

  • Mary Kochan

    Noel, you are arguing from the author’s silence. If he had denied anything St. Thomas said, you would be on firmer ground, but not mentioning something is not the same as denying it.

  • Warren Jewell

    Notice, too, Noel, that the man is a lawyer. The clever lawyer uses his evidence concisely, and won’t muddy waters with unnecessary references.

    Hi, Noel!

  • noelfitz

    Warren,
    it is great to from you.

    I miss your sound words of wisdom.

    I hope you will contribute here more and that I will be encouraged by your deep faith in, and understanding of, our faith, and your gentle rebukes.

    I hope your health is good.
    **************************************

    Mary,
    thanks for your comments. It seems that to get a response one needs to be (at least) slightly provocative.

    However let me emphasize that Mr Gieb’s article is basically very sound and I agree with it.

    I felt it was a pity that he used St Thomas in the way he did.

    I think you understand that my comments are always meant to be supportive of the Church.

    Also I acknowledge your excellent grasp of philosophy and the faith.

    As we might say in Ireland “it was not off the streets you got your understanding of classical philosophy”. I know you are an ex-Jehovah Witness, but I am intrigued as to when and where you developed such a judicious and firm grasp of classical philosophy.

  • noelfitz

    I received a very nice reply from Mr Geib.

    I enclose a copy of my reply to him:

    Hello Mr Geib,
    thank you for taking the time to reply to me. I appreciate it.

    I am afraid I am being pedantic. My wife claims I am a “Devil’s Advocate”, but I would deny this.

    I thought your article was basically very sound and I hope I will see more articles by you in CL.

    I admire the great work you are doing for life issues. I am afraid I am only a foot soldier. When an public issue emerges I knock at doors and distribute leaflets, but that is all.

    So once more thank you for your article, your reply to me and the great work you are doing for the Church, life issues and the common good.

  • Hi Noel, I have to take up your claim that the death penalty violates the fifth commandment. The Church always affirms the right of every innocent person to life, and has always taught that the death penalty is not intrinsically wrong. We can debate whether it’s a good idea (no in almost all cases, in my opinion), but it’s nowhere close to the same plane of injustice as abortion.

    I am taken by the idea that God created us out of mercy. Similarly, I once was told that He created us basically because He knew we would like it! What kind of a deal is that? He didn’t have to do anything, as He is complete unto Himself. Yet His love overflows to the point that He just “has” to create us through it. This is a beautiful thought to reflect upon and take to prayer.

    • noelfitz

      Hi PH,
      thanks for your comment.

      I did say one has to be slightly provocative to get a response.

      The Church throughout most of history did not condemn slavery strongly, but now most would see it as an evil. Perhaps the death penalty is similar.