St. Thomas Aquinas in his work, On Evil (or, De Malo in the original Latin) describes that the sin of pride comes in four characteristic ways. The first form of pride is when a person over exaggerates her talents and gifts, claiming to better than she actually is. You hear it at any point when the person shows how little she had to work on an objectively hard task. The second form is when a person does not recognize the gifts or talents he has received as coming from God. A person continually grateful to God embodies the view of John 15:5, “for without me you can do nothing.”
The last two forms of pride seem at work in the forgiven yet unforgiving servant today. The third form is when a person has received a gift from the Lord because she deserved it. Think of a time when we have received a gift, and we have justified our reception of it because our past good actions. The last form of pride that Aquinas mentions is when a person has received a gift from the Lord but desires that no one else has it; he continues to feel special for being the only recipient.
These two latter forms of pride combine in regards to the servant’s experience of mercy. The pardoned servant felt he deserved mercy but not the servant who owed him money. We quickly fall into this trap too. When we come up with the best excuses for our actions, they are sometimes identical to the actions we become angry with another for doing. Also, the pardoned sinner is unaware about the mercy of nature. The best type of gifts are those that when we give them away they increase rather than decrease. Love grows when given away. Mercy is also the same. When we receive mercy from God, we may become an agent of the very mercy we have received. Hoarding mercy for ourselves misrepresents the gratuity in which we have received it. We can make mercy to seem unattainable for others who are desperate for a sense of God’s love for them.
Mercy is a basic human need in our fallen state. We need frequent reminders of God’s continual mercy for us. It does not come because we have done penance, as if we could deserve mercy from our acts. Instead, we receive mercy out of God’s goodness to freely give what we could never earn. Let us pray that the Lord helps us to be merciful as we have received mercy.
When was a time I felt the Lord’s mercy? Where have I felt a challenge to be merciful to another?