Today’s gospel is short, sweet with many good points. Let me muse upon just one: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” One way to consider this admonition is to ponder what are the consequence of withholding mercy.
In the early 19th century, Mary Shelley wrote the novel, Frankenstein. While we associate the name with the creature, the name is the moniker of the novel’s scientist. This character is often thought about as the archetypical product of the Enlightenment and Industrial Age.
In the novel, Victor Frankenstein declares:
It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
The monster is the creation of a person who gives no evidence of mercy or care, compassion or attention. Something for which the monster cries out, making his own case for mercy.
“Hateful day when I received life!” I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.”
As Shelley sets up her story, the monster chooses murderous evil, but this could have been avoided if his creator had listened to his plea of utter loneliness and shown his own creature some measure of mercy.
“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Fear of his own creation overwhelms the scientist, and so cannot find the strength, cannot receive the grace, to show mercy, to draw his own creature into a circle of life. And so the monster promises,
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”
So goes the novel. Consider it the next time the opportunity for mercy arises.