God Is Mercy
The following excerpt is chapter 2 of the book God Is Mercy (Grail Publications, 1955), by Fr. Michael Sopocko. It was translated by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception:
God the Father of heaven
"... Your Father ... is Merciful" — Luke 6:36
I. WHO is God? "God is Love," says Holy Scripture (1 John 4:8), but this love directed toward human misery, is Mercy. That is why Christ Our Lord emphasizes this attribute of God. "Your Father is Merciful" (Luke 6:36).
We call a man merciful when he shows compassion for his neighbor and does all he can to lighten his burdens whether material or spiritual. Mercy, as compassion, is even manifested in animals. For instance, a dog will wimper at the sight of its sick master. In man, mercy enters not only as compassion (passio), but also as a moral virtue resulting from love of one's neighbor. The merciful Samaritan assisted the wounded Jew, and Cornelius, a pagan, showed mercy to the Israelites.
God's Mercy is neither compassion nor virtue. He, as the purest Spirit is not subject to any affection, nor is His Mercy a virtue, because into human mercy enters a certain sadness in which He has no part, since He is essentially self-sufficient and perfectly happy. Divine Mercy is God's perfection or attribute in which He willingly inclines Himself toward His creatures to ward off impending miseries and to satisfy their daily needs.
God, as the most perfect Being, is Spirit most pure and most simple; that is, He is not composed of separate elements. He is a oneness with no components in His nature. It is true that in God there are three Persons Who are distinct, One from the Other, by procession, but in His nature God is one, indivisible, eternal. "One there is who is good, that is God" (Matt. 19:17).
Human reason is incapable of expressing the whole perfection of God in one concept and consequently it raises all the perfections in creatures to the highest degree and attributes them to God. Hence, we speak of God's Wisdom, Patience, Justice, Providence, Mercy, etc. Furthermore, for a better knowledge of God we reduce His perfections to two groups. In the first, we refer them to His nature (for instance: Infinity, Immutability, Eternity, etc.), and we call them absolute perfections, and in the other, we refer them to His relation with His creatures and call them relative perfections. The latter are manifested in God's works and are noticed more easily. By meditating on the depth of these relative attributes we acquire a better understanding of God. For this reason the Father of the Vatican Council (1870) pointed out that God is known best by studying Him through His creatures. In other words, they encouraged us to study His relative perfections and to compare the one with the other. Goodness, Generosity, Providence, Justice are the attributes of God most frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, but most of all His Mercy is appraised. The Mercy of God is therefore a relative perfection or an attribute, through which, in Holy Scripture, God most commonly expresses His relation to His creatures and through which we can comprehend our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. This attribute, as well as the others, does not differ substantially from the essence of God. In other words, God's Mercy is God Himself pitying our misery and satisfying our needs.
Holy Scripture praises the Mercy of God separately from His other attributes, but this is a mere condescension permitting the human mind, despite its weakness, to understand to a certain extent the nature of God. The human mind usually grasps a whole by analyzing its parts. If separate parts do not exist in a being, as in the case of God, the human mind proceeds through the analogy and substitutes for them some corresponding elements which it finds in other things.
II. THE Mercy of god is inferred from the very notion of God, Who is Himself the First Act, the First Perfection, the First Good, independent of every other. Man acquires the virtue of mercy like any other virtue, from God, just as the moon reflects the rays from the sun.
The Mercy of God, which does not depend on anything, is unlimited and infinite. On the contrary, human mercy depends on the love of one's neighbor and of God, Who fixes its mode, measure and limits. God manifests His Mercy without using any intermediate form. Human mercy flows from love of one's neighbor, which love in turn, rises and grows dependent on acts and forms proper to it.
God is always perfectly merciful for He is immutable, but human mercy can grow, lessen, or even disappear, as in great sinners.
I trust in Thee, O God, Whom I cannot thing of as being less than most Merciful Father, regarding me with pity, ever desirous of raising me from my wretchedness and ever eager to supply all my wants.
"God the Father of heaven, have Mercy on us!"