FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2016
THE MEANING OF MERCY – 2
May 20, 2016
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (Jas 5:11b). Mercy is withholding the just punishment for transgression. “He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.” (Ps 103:10). We deserve condemnation for our sins, but God, who is merciful, does not exact the punishment that should be inflicted upon us. Rather, God forgives and brings us to salvation. God “redeems your life from the pit” (Ps 103:4a).
Mercy has several facets.
First, mercy is about forgiveness. God “pardons all your sins, and heals all your ills” (Ps 103:3). Given our repentance, God forgives, forgets, cancels our debt, and wipes the slate clean. “He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger” (Ps 103:9). God reconciles us to Himself, enabling us to enter into His holy presence. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” (Ps 103:12).
Second, mercy is about compassion. God “crowns you with mercy and compassion” (Ps 103:4b). Compassion is deep awareness of the suffering of the other. It is not just superficial pity. It is what prods one to try to do something about the sorry situation of the other.
Third, mercy is about forbearance. It is being patience in the face of provocation. It is being slow to anger. “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy.” (Ps 103:8).
Fourth, mercy is about looking to the well-being of those who are in dire and desperate situations. “The Lord does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed.” (Ps 103:6). It is realizing that I am my brother’s keeper, especially for the least and the last.
Fifth, mercy is about desiring the good of the other. God “fills your days with good things, so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Ps 103:5). Ultimately, mercy is about salvation, entering into the fullness of God’s love for all eternity. This is why we are passionate about the work of evangelization, as the greatest act of mercy is to evangelize and bring people to Christ.
Mercy is critical in human relationships, especially in such intimate relationships as in the family and in community. We can see from all the facets above how true mercy can make such radical differences in relationships.
This certainly would be true for husband and wife. Spouses will always have problems and differences, but they end up separated or divorced “because of the hardness of (their) hearts” (Mk 10:5a). Rather, understanding the mercy of God, and realizing that we too are called by Jesus to then be merciful to others, and knowing the dire consequences of not extending mercy to others as God has been merciful to us, these instill in us the fear of God who does punish transgression (when His mercy is refused) and the awe of God who designed such a lofty and sacred relationship as marriage. “For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him.” (Ps 103:11). Couples would stay together and work things out, certainly with the help of God, if only they realized who God is and what God has designed for them. “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mk 10:9).
Mercy is crucial in community relationships. It is so easy, given differences, for relationships to be strained and for conflicts to arise. But mercy brings forth positive traits that help prevent conflicts.
- Not speaking against. “Do not complain, brothers, about one another” (Jas 5:9a). Differences turn into conflicts where there is loose talk, or insidious gossip, or maligning of the other.
- Being patient with one another. “Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (Jas 5:10). Mercy recognizes the shortcomings of others and the need for us to be patient with them.
- Persevering through difficult times, even in extreme affliction. “Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of the perseverance of Job” (Jas 5:11a). Mercy allows us to bear suffering and pain, including what is unjustly inflicted upon us. Mercy enables us to accept these as our crosses and embrace them, even as we look to the icon of mercy, Christ crucified.
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