Today at the basilica Monday mass like many weeks, our recessional hymn was “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.” I really love this hymn and have been wanting to adapt it into a contemporary format. It affirms the basic goodness of God. Not just goodness in the sense that “God’s in charge so whatever He does is something we’re supposed to call good,” but the kind and gentle goodness Jesus exudes in saying “Come to me you who are weary.” I’m weary today so I was richly blessed by it. Here are the words.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice which is more than liberty.
There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of our mind,
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple
We should take him at his word,
And our lives would be thanksgiving
For the goodness of our Lord.
Troubled souls, why will you scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts, why will you wander
From a love so true and deep?
There is welcome for the sinner
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior,
There is healing in his blood.
Isn’t that such a breath of fresh air theologically? It has such a wonderful holy naïveté about it (“If our love were but more simple”). It doesn’t shy away from naming the blood of Christ that we need for our healing, but it doesn’t engage in the clumsy habit in many of today’s praise songs of trying to make love and justice or mercy and holiness into opposites. I want to live in a world where mercy is wide and justice is kind, even though we’re supposed to “enter by the narrow gate” and I believe very strongly that God will not fudge His integrity in standing up for the oppressed against their oppressors.
This song reminds me of a Christianity Today piece that Mark Galli wrote in the midst of the big hell debate. He said what we know and can hold onto is that God really is infinitely good and not just “right” because of His omnipotent might. So when we are legitimately troubled by questions about the eternal destiny of virtuous Christ-exuding people who aren’t Christian or whether God’s grace is indeed irresistible and what that means about those who do resist it, we can take refuge in the trust that “the love of God is broader than the measures of our mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.” I’m sure some evangelicals would find a way to call that sentence heretical, but that’s where I choose to trust in the Catholic God: mysterious and beautiful in a way that’s far wider than any systematic theology we create for Him.