Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,
"Your mercy is greater than the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the skies." (Ps 108:5)
In the fine article "God's Mercy and Faithfulness," the biblical scholar, Jerome Kodell, begins with quoting from the Prologue of St. John's Gospel, wherein we hear twice of God's "grace and truth" (Jn 1:14,17). In Greek these two terms are charis and aletheia. Yet, these two key Greek terms are rooted in the Old Testament and the Hebrew phrase hesed w' emeth. These deeply suggestive words can mean "love and truth," "mercy and faithfulness," "kindness and fidelity." And it was only of the God of Israel, the God who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, that such terms could be attributed.
In summarizing this absolute difference between Israel's experience of God based on the concepts of hesed w' emeth, and that of the surrounding nations, Kodell writes the following:
When the two concepts are brought together in the tradition they describe the God of Israel as "faithful love" or "loving faithfulness," a stunning revelation.
YHWH is not like the gods of other nations, fickle, moody, vindictive, focused on themselves and interested in their adherents only as servile pawns: in other words, mirror images of the weak humans who created them.
The God of Israel is not self-focused, but is turned toward God's sons and daughters and only wants to help them receive what is best for them. Love in biblical terms is not a feeling but a decision to seek what is best for the other. God not only loves but is love (I Jn 4:8). This is the message of hesed.
True love always involves faithfulness, but that quality is reinforced by the combination with emeth: "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, because of your mercy and faithfulness." No other god was ever loving or faithful toward his or her worshipers. In fact, this attitude is completely foreign to the idea of deity in the nations surrounding Israel.
Yet, as Kodell further writes, this concept and experience of God must transform human lives and human relationships. He then further writes:
To be a child of this God means living in loving fidelity and faithful love toward our brothers and sisters. There is never reason to withdraw our love from someone, no matter how they disappoint or mistreat us, or no matter how sinful we perceive them to be. God never withdraws love from us, no matter what we do. God is faithful love and loving faithfulness and calls us to imitate him as God's own dear children.
There is always a profound reciprocity between who God is and who we are meant to be!