Mercy is always a mystery and pardon ever a miracle. The penitence of the bad child bears no comparison to the greatness of the parents' affliction or the magnanimity of their forgiveness. Very few such repenting sinners are deserving of the joyful pardon they receive. So it is with God and His divine forgiveness of repenting sinners.
A certain governor by the name of Zeleucus issued a law that anyone guilty of a certain crime should) lose his eyes. His favorite son being convicted of this crime, the governor, at once, without being stayed by the ties of blood, condemned him to the terrible penalty established for all. But the whole people craved pardon for him. Overcome by their lamentations, he bethought himself of a way of satisfying the claims of the law without condemning his son to total blindness. He ordered that his son should lose one eye and himself also one eye, showing in his own person, by this tempering of justice with mercy, a tender parent and a respecter of the law.
As there are "Black Sheep" in families, children, so you will find some "Black Sheep" among your own companions, some to whom you may have been kind. Remember, you must always return good for evil for God's sake. God is kind to sinners. How much is God offended by men! Imagine a pile of sand as large as, say, a palace. How many grains of sand are there in that heap? I do not hesitate to assert that the number of these grains of sand is not as great as that of the sins committed in a single year by the millions of people who live upon the face of the earth. And among these sins there is a countless number of mortal sins.
Now it is certain that a venial sin against God is a vastly greater offense than is committed against a man by the greatest insult that can be offered him. For instance, if we entertain even a slight aversion to a neighbor, if we are guilty of a lie told merely in a jest, we offer a far greater offense to God than would be offered us if anyone were to spit into our face, strike us, or even take away our life. The reason is that the grievousness of the offense must be measured by the rank of the person offended. Now, if God, whose rank and greatness cannot be equaled, is so indulgent with those who offend Him, should not we also have forbearance with those who offend us?
Children, in your Bible history you have read about Abraham. He had a nephew whose name was Lot, a very selfish and mean individual. In those days men made long journeys to find pastures for their animals. One day in their travels they came to a lovely piece of land. It was gay with flowers, like a garden, and had a river running through it keeping it fresh and green. There Abraham and Lot pitched their tents. They had large flocks of sheep and goats and cows, and servants to take care of them. The servants began quarreling among themselves. Abraham's servants wanted the greenest spots for feeding their flocks and so did Lot's servants. When Abraham saw the men quarreling he told Lot that they had better divide the land and separate their flocks and servants. Abraham was much older than his nephew and had always been very kind to him, and Lot should have given his uncle the choice. Do you think he did? No, he chose the whole lovely piece of land which was like a garden. Abraham was so generous that he let him keep it; and then Abraham traveled with his servants and flocks towards the mountains, where they pitched
their tents and built an altar.
One day when Abraham was standing at the door of his tent he saw a man hurrying towards him whose clothing was torn and dusty, and whose face was white with weariness and fear. He fell at Abraham's feet, and told him in gasps that Lot and all his friends who lived in the lovely valley had been beaten in battle against enemies. The enemies had killed many of Lot's friends, and the rest of them, with all the gold and silver and flocks they owned, they had carried away. Among the prisoners was Lot.
As soon as Abraham learned the news, he called his servants together and, giving them swords and bows and arrows, he led them hastily after the enemies. Then, in the darkness of the night, Abraham's servants encircled the army of the enemy. While the enemy slept Abraham's men fell upon them and vanquished them.
In the enemy's camp Abraham found Lot and his friends, who had been made prisoners, and he freed them all, giving them back the gold and silver and flocks which the enemies had stolen. Was that not a splendid way for Abraham to treat Lot, who had been so mean to him? Abraham did not do it with any hope of reward; he knew that Lot would perhaps never even say "thank you," but Abraham was rewarded. God saw him, and when at night Abraham returned to his own tent God spoke to him and said: "Fear not, Abraham, I am thy exceeding great reward."
When our Blessed Lord lived upon earth, He forgave the sins of those who came to Him with proper disposition. You remember, I am sure, the beautiful history of Mary Magdalen coming to Jesus, as He sat at table in the house of Simon the Pharisee, how she threw herself at His feet, washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. Our dear Lord did not send her away without reward. When the Pharisees murmured at Him for permitting a great sinner to approach Him, He took up her defense, and, after rebuking her accusers, turned to her with a look of tender compassion, and said to her, "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
God strictly requires us to love even the greatest sinners, for if we should withdraw our love from any man, though he be the greatest malefactor or our bitterest enemy, if we nourish hatred against him, or in word or deed treat him uncharitably, we cannot expect of God grace and forgiveness.
My dear boys and girls, your heart should burn with love and compassion for sinners, when you see how lovingly Jesus treated the greatest sinners; how He even shed tears over the impenitent city of Jerusalem, which had done Him so much evil.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921