36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~ Luke 6:36 (NRSVACE)
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In many ways, mercy begins and ends with love. Case in point, God created the Earth and everything on it (Genesis 1: 1-24). He loved us first in the very act of preparing a place to which we could survive and live in His grace. Furthermore, God’s love is taken to an even higher level through the very act of making us a reflection of Himself (Genesis 1:26) creating us in his own image. In these two thoughtful actions, our all-powerful creator proves His agape love simply by including us in His universal plan. But God didn’t stop there for his love still rises higher through a conscious purposeful choice to meet our sin with mercy expressed in the form of an undeserved-forgiveness that is rooted deeply within His all-powerful, all-consuming, and all-inclusive love (1 John 4:16). Therefore, my brothers and sisters in Christ our mercy for each other is one of the greatest ways we have to emulate His very first acts in loving us. (Eph 5:2) Thus, to be merciful encompasses every physical act, every word spoken, and every thought we think, or share with and for others.
The Many Faces of Mercy
Putting God’s Love First
Because God does not always confront our sin with judgment rather in most instances our sin is met through his mercy as a sinner in need of Jesus as our Savior. Therefore, Jesus when asked what was the most important of the commandments He responded with, 37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Because Jesus placed love above all other things, and because Jesus is the earthly representation of Our God in heaven, love must come first. We are therefore commanded to love God and our fellow human beings. When we place love above anger, above our selfish wants, and human greed we become capable of being loving in our actions, words, and thoughts. Our life no longer revolves around our own egos and selfish desires but around others in union with God. From this union we emulate God through the forgiveness of others, we show mercy by helping those less fortunate, and our words become laced with a pearl of kind wisdom. This is the first face of mercy rooted in God’s agape love.
Mercy Builds Hope for the Future
Hardheartedness feeds selfish desires, it propagates loneliness, and in the guise of unearned self-promotion breeds fear and hopelessness. Then God’s plan is thrown to doubt by a sinful, resentful, and evil-minded society. Looking forward becomes a painful proposition which is shrouded in pointless repetition. Still, our God looks through the unhappiness, selfishness, and ego-centric lives who have been caught up in this web with nothing but undying love and a deep longing to bring the many sinners into His light of mercy because He is love. Therefore, when we surrender to God we allow Him on a daily basis to chip away at our hardheartedness so we, through His mercy, can look forward with nothing but a concrete hope for the future. When we emulate God in this way our words even when we are angered, or embarrassed, and perhaps blamed thus tested beyond our ability to cope will be nothing but kind and filled with the truth of reason. Hateful words or phrases that people often spew such as, “You are an embarrassment!”, “You are stupid!”, “You ruined our reputation!”, or “I hate you!” will be met with a calm steel and skillful love. Words of scorn shot down by words of mercy which will move hearts to a future of greater love. This is the second face of mercy rooted in God’s agape love.
Mercy Makes Forgiveness an Imperative
A hand given to lift a person from where they have fallen, food given to the hungry, medical attention given to the sick and dying, or the invitation to a safe place to find rest, all are examples of the greatest works of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which was so urgently demonstrated during his life. Mercy given in such ways makes the human heart desirable to God, which brings one closer to God. It is so easy to ignore our brothers and sisters in need as our human hearts sometimes silently blame the less fortunate among us for some unknown bad decision they may have made which led them to such ills. But in the eye’s of God, the act of mercy through forgiveness puts judgment aside and His healing love becomes the central focus. For the Lord God, kissed the leper, fed the homeless, and cleansed the sick all of which are mercies we can also grant to those in need. When we forgive we invite the mercy of the Holy Spirit into our lives and thus lead others to do the same which in turn lifts the human soul up as Jesus had done. This action of mercy makes forgiveness the imperative bringing countless of God’s underserved into His divine love. This is the third face of mercy rooted in God’s agape love.
Mercy Gives Rise to Joy
Kindness in actions, the kindness of words, and kindness rooted in mercy are all found in every page of the Holy Bible. God’s message for humanity is clear. The mercy God grants is a renewing and redeeming, “encounter between two hearts: the heart of God who comes to meet us and a human heart.” (Pope Francis, 2016). In this exchange, God’s love and merciful heart is the source which leads to salvation and a rebirth of the human heart which is lifted up and cleansed; raptured in joy despite our human sinfulness. The greatest example of this is the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. The mercy granted in that act of taking our sins upon Himself redeemed the world of its sin. Within this exchange, the human heart finds that it is a “new creation” (Gal6:15). “I am loved, therefore I exist; I am forgiven, therefore I am reborn; I have been shown mercy, therefore I have become a vessel of mercy.” (Pope Francis, 2016). Being a vessel of mercy opens the doors to love which gives rise to a greater joy! This is the fourth face of mercy rooted in God’s agape love.
Let Us Pray!
In honor of those who have been killed in Gilroy, Ca. – El Paso, Texas – & Dayton, Ohio.
PRAYER FOR THE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE
Catholic Health Association of the United States
Loving God, you are the author and sustainer of our lives. You know the anguish of the sorrowful, you are attentive to the prayers of the brokenhearted. Hear your people who cry out to you in their need; strengthen their hope in your lasting goodness.
We pray today for those who have died because of violence, of terrorism. Draw them to yourself; let your face shine upon them. May they be greeted with choirs of angels and experience your eternal peace and joy.
Be near to all those who have been touched by violence: those who have been hurt, lost their loved ones or lost their sense of security. Be for them a steady comfort and safe resting place.
Soften the hearts and steady of the minds of those who would do violence to others. May hate be replaced with love, violence with peace and darkness with your light.
Glory to the Father and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.
Saint Joseph, Pray for us. ~ Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’
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Copyright ©2019 by Brian K. Stark. All rights reserved.
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