The second greatest act of mercy I’ve ever known was performed by somebody whose name you have probably never heard.
She was Assunta Goretti, mother of St. Maria Goretti.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the story of Maria Goretti, at the tender age of eleven she was threatened by a neighbor, Allesandro Serenelli, to give in to his sexual advances. When she refused, Allesandro stabbed her 14 times. She survived the attack long enough to make it to the hospital but later died of her injuries.
Allesandro was of course arrested and sent to prison. While there, he had a conversion experience in which Maria appeared to him in a dream with 14 white lilies, one for each time he had stabbed her.
Maria did forgive her murderer, which was a great act of mercy, but one even more incredible was to come.
Allesandro was released from prison 27 years after the attack. He sought out Maria’s mother, Assunta Goretti, to beg her forgiveness.
Amazingly, she not only forgave him but (get this!) adopted him as her own son.
If your initial reaction is “How could she do that?” you and I are a lot alike. To tell you the truth, if a man murdered one of my daughters, I don’t think I’d have it in me to adopt him as my son, no matter how repentant he was. He would always be there, as a reminder. I would every day see the hands that had snuffed out my daughter’s life.
Forgive . . . yes.
Adopt . . . are you crazy?
Then it occurred to me that there is another act of mercy similar to this one, in fact, the Number One Act of Mercy.
You see, someone did for me what Assunta did for Allesandro.
Those were my sins that scourged Jesus. Those were my sins that crowned His head with thorns. Those were my sins that nailed Him to the cross, that shed His Precious Blood, that caused His excruciatingly painful death.
That’s what I did to a certain Someone’s Son, and yet . . .
And yet He not only forgave me but adopted me as His daughter.
I’d always known about God’s great mercy in dying for my sins. But I had not stopped to consider the second part of the story: God making me His own child.
When I came to this realization, for the first time it hit me like a bullet between the eyes what it actually means that God’s Love and Mercy goes to such great lengths.
And I will be eternally grateful.