I love this.
Mercy is not leniency even if God liberally in extraordinary generosity pours out gratuitously. As Bishop Barron said, mercy is “demanding.”
In a talk to priests in Rome, Bishop Barron said he shared four lessons on divine mercy based on the story of the Woman at the Well. In an article at Catholic World Report that I hope you read in its entirety, he says, on lesson three:
The third principle I identified is that the divine mercy is demanding. I told the fathers gathered in Rome that we tend to understand the proclamation of the divine mercy according to a zero-sum logic, whereby the more we say about mercy, the less we should say about moral demand, and vice versa. But this is repugnant to the peculiar both/and logic of the Christian gospel. As Chesterton saw so clearly, the Church loves “red and white and has always had a healthy hatred of pink!” It likes both colors strongly expressed side by side, and it has an abhorrence of compromises and half-way measures. Thus, you can’t overstate the power of the divine mercy, and you can’t overstate the demand that it makes upon us. Jesus tells the woman that she comes daily to the well and gets thirsty again, but that he wants to give her the water that will permanently quench her thirst. St. Augustine accordingly saw the well as expressive of concupiscent or errant desire, the manner in which we seek to satisfy the deepest hunger of the heart with creaturely goods, with wealth and power, pleasure and honor. But such a strategy leads only to frustration and addiction and hence must be challenged. Indeed, Jesus shows that the woman exhibits this obsessive, addictive quality of desire in regard to her relationships: when she says that she has no husband, Jesus bluntly states, “yes, you’ve had five, and the one you have now is not your husband.” This is not the voice of a wishy-washy relativist, an anything-goes peddler of pseudo-mercy and cheap grace. Rather, it is the commanding voice of one who knows that extreme mercy awakens extreme demand.
Lesson one, he says is that God’s mercy is relentless; and Lesson two is that it is divinizing. That is extremely important! For what we are not taught enough is that God, through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection has given us new natures, totally gratis, that in our baptism we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Through constantly accessing God’s mercy, we work out our salvation, dying to the old nature, and living in the freedom of the new nature we have in Christ.