Blessed Fr. Sopocko
Mercy of God: Supreme Attribute of the Creator
The following excerpt is chapter six of the book God Is Mercy (Grail Publications, 1955), by Fr. Michael Sopocko. It was translated by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception:
"The mercies of God are above all His works"
— Ps. 144:9
I. GLORIFYING the Mercy of God with a deluge of words, the inspired Psalmist does not hesitate to place it above all His other attributes, that is, he considers God's Mercy His greatest relative perfection.
God's relationship to His creatures manifests itself in removing their deficiencies and in providing them with perfections. This provision, when it is considered independently of any circumstances, is attributed to the Goodness of God. God's complete disinterestedness when distributing benefits to us, is ascribed to His Generosity. Providence is divine solicitude that we may attain our final end by cooperating with God's grace. God's bestowal of perfections according to a prearranged plan and order is called the Justice of God. Finally, God providing His creatures with perfections in order to supply their needs and lead them out of their miseries is called the Mercy of God. Therefore we could distinguish five chief attributes of God: Goodness, Generosity, Providence, Justice, and Mercy. To these we subordinate all secondary Divine attributes (e.g., patience is subordinate to mercy).
If we consider the works of God from different points of view we can discover these perfections in all of them. The preservation of Moses who was placed in a basket on the river Nile, if considered generally and independently of any circumstances, is attributed to the Goodness of God. If, however, we consider that this preservation was neither necessary for God nor merited by the infant, we may conclude that God acted disinterestedly, that is, He acted out of Generosity. Furthermore, we attribute God's watchfulness over the infant floating on the river to His Providence. But this preservation of Moses, in accordance with the Divine plan of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, is called the Justice of God. Finally, God's raising of Moses out of the hardships which endangered him on every side, and providing him with perfections such as the necessities of life, growth, and education, is the work of His Mercy.
Of all the distressing moments in the life of the child Moses, the one that strikes us most is the misery of his being abandoned on such a large river, and the needs which would soon arise therefrom. Therefore we may rightly say that the Goodness of God is nothing else but Mercy which creates and endows; Generosity is Mercy which is unusually liberal with gifts; Providence is Mercy which is constantly vigilant; Justice is Mercy which rewards over and above merits, and punishes far less than is deserved; finally, Love of God is Mercy which ahs compassion on our wretchedness and draws us to Itself.
Hence, reflecting in our human way, the Mercy of God seems to be the chief motive for His exterior actions and, as St. Thomas asserts, is found at the very source of every work of the Creator.
II. THE Angelic Doctor proves this truth in the following argument. Every perfection may be considered either in itself or in regard to the one in whom it is found. Mercy considered in itself is the highest perfection because it consists in communicating one's own perfections to other beings by lifting them from their wretchedness and removing their deficiencies; one who gives shows higher perfection than the one who receives. Such communicativeness is a property of higher beings in regard to the lower; in the highest degree, it is a property of God through which His greatest Power is manifested.
Mercy considered in a person in whom it is found, it not always the highest perfection, but is so only if the possessor himself is the highest being; that is, if he has neither an equal nor anyone superior to himself. The one therefore, who has some superior to himself, manifests his perfection best by partaking in a higher being through love, than by removing deficiencies in lower beings. For this reason love of God is the greatest virtue of man. Since God has no superior and no one to whom He could subordinate Himself through love, therefore His highest perfection is not Love, but Mercy (Summa Theologica, I, q. 21, aa. 3 and 4; II-II, q. 30, a.4). Furthermore, comparing Mercy with Justice the angelic Doctor proves that Mercy is superior. This is also confirmed by Holy Scripture which directly states: "... But mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).
In moments of trial, I will recall with joy the infinite Mercy of God and humbly submit myself to the Divine Will, trusting that in the end everything will change to good in the hand of Him, Whose "ways are Mercy and Truth" (Ps. 24:10)