In the ongoing saga of King Saul and the soon to be king David we come to a very pivotal moment where Saul is determined to kill David to avoid losing his throne. Running for his life David flees to the protection of a cave. Carelessly Saul enters the same cave to answer a call of nature. Whispering to David frantically his posse says, “Now is your chance, kill Saul while he is unguarded before you.” But as David sneaks forward instead of killing Saul he only, very carefully, cuts a small patch of cloth from Saul’s cloak. Though David could easily have killed the King he does not and the cloth patch becomes evidence of David’s mercy.
This act of David’s causes me to think about God’s mercy.
In the new translation of the Roman Missal, we find a penitential act asking us to state three times the fact that we have sinned through our own fault.
“Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
The first time that I admit my fault my ears hear and my brain acknowledges what I am saying. The second time I say those words my heart begins to pound and I feel the gravity of what I have done. The third time I say those words I know that I am a sinner.
But then I have the opportunity to say,
“May almighty God have mercy on me. May God forgive my sins. May God bring me to everlasting life”.
The local ordinary of my diocese Bishop Don was ordained two years ago this Easter. When he was made Bishop he had a coat of arms made up and at the bottom of the shield is a small banner that reads “mercy within mercy within mercy.” The quotation is from Thomas Merton’s 1953 book The Sign of Jonas (Jonah), wherein Merton has God saying: “I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy…. Have you not had sight of me, Jonas, my child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.”
Because of God’s mercy I can have another chance, because of God’s mercy I can become renewed in God’s Spirit, because of God’s mercy I have been redeemed.
As David reveals to Saul what he has done, and Saul realizes that he has been spared, his anger melts away. All his jealousy and envy leave his heart. Saul realizes that he can be a new person because of the gift of mercy that David has offered him.
We too have been given the gift of a new beginning. With God there is mercy, within mercy, within mercy.