Words of Jesus to Faustina, from her Diary: par. 1663 & 1667
Mercy and Forgiveness are intimately related but are often incorrectly considered synonymous and equal in meaning, confused one for the other. Today we first hear God forgive David for his sin of murder and then Jesus forgives the woman washing His feet. Are these Mercy?
Let’s begin with a secular definition. To forgive is to: give up the wish to punish, not have hard feelings, pardon or excuse. David deserved to die for his sin but God does not punish him with death. The Pharisee looks with scorn on the woman washing Jesus’ feet but He who is God and against whom she has sinned, through His forgiveness, shows that He bears no hard feelings toward her. In both cases we see and hear God’s forgiveness. Is this Mercy?
It may help to explore the simple secular linguistics of both words. The word forgive is a verb; mercy is a noun. When we forgive someone, or when God forgives us, that is an Act of the Will; it is an action that requires deliberate thought and decisiveness. Notice that the definition also includes the willful desire to not have hard feelings or to punish. This is the relevance of forgive and forget.
The secular definition of mercy (kindness beyond what can be claimed or expected) is inadequate. The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible better defines mercy as “a radiation of God’s love which takes into consideration the weakness of His creatures,” and the Catechism tells us that the “fruits of charity (love) are joy, peace and mercy (CCC 1829).
Now we reach the crux (where two lines of thought cross) of the matter. Forgiveness without love, by its own secular definition, has nothing to do with mercy. How many times have we forgiven without forgetting? Mercy is the fruit of Love. Forgiveness alone doesn’t cut it but when it comes from Love it is full of Mercy.