God’s Mercy and the ‘Defects’ of Jesus


Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was a Catholic bishop in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), who was imprisoned for his faith in 1975 by the Communist government of Vietnam. He spent the next 13 years of his life in jail, nine of them in complete isolation. He survived the horrors of that experience through prayer, and by secretly saying Mass whenever he could with a small piece of bread and a few drops of wine. When he was finally expelled from Vietnam in 1991, he went to Rome, where he served in the Roman Curia under Pope John Paul II. He was made a Cardinal in 2001, the year before he died.
In 2000, the Jubilee Year, the Holy Father asked then-Archbishop Van Thuan to preach the spiritual exercises to him and to the members of the Curia. These talks were later published in a book titled, “Testimony of Hope.” In the second talk of the exercises, Archbishop Van Thuan makes what can best be described as a “shocking” statement, although, properly understood, it’s also a very meaningful statement—a statement that can help us to better understand the incredible mercy of God that we celebrate in a special way on Divine Mercy Sunday. These are his words: “I left everything to follow Jesus, because I love the ‘defects’ of Jesus.”
He then proceeds to clarify his seemingly heterodox assertion by specifically identifying some of these “defects.” The first one he mentions is that “Jesus has a terrible memory.” By that he means that Jesus not only forgives, he also “forgets” our sins whenever we approach him with sincere repentance in our hearts, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Thus, our forgiven sins never come between us and our loving God again. In his great mercy he treats us as if we had never committed them.
The second defect of Jesus, which Archbishop Van Thuan mentions in his talk, is that “Jesus doesn’t know math.” His point there is that each and every human soul is equally precious and valuable to the Lord. This explains the famous parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus speaks of a shepherd who leaves 99 of his sheep in the wilderness to go in search of the one that’s lost. As the archbishop puts it, “For Jesus, one is equal to ninety-nine — and perhaps more!”
Which brings us to the third “defect” of Jesus according to Archbishop Van Thuan: “He doesn’t know logic.” Here he makes reference to the parable about the woman with the ten silver pieces who loses one of them. When she finally finds it, the Bible says she calls her friends and neighbors over for a party, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver piece that I lost.”
In commenting on this story, the archbishop states: “This is truly illogical — to disturb your friends over one silver piece and then to plan a feast to celebrate the find.”
It’s not humanly logical, that’s true, but it is what you might call “divinely logical.” It’s the same kind of logic that motivated the good shepherd to search for his lost sheep. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jesus ends the parable of the ten silver pieces with the same message with which he ended the parable of the lost sheep. Our Lord says, “Just so, I tell you, there is more joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10).
Thank you, Jesus, for the mercy that flows from your “divine logic” — and from your poor memory and poor math skills. Because of these blessed “defects” we have the hope of eternal life for ourselves and for all people — even for the greatest of sinners.