Today’s Gospel has Jesus saying, “I desire mercy,not sacrifice...” In an article by Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, he explains the concept this way:
The Latin word, which is the ultimate root of our English word “mercy,” is misericordia. It, in turn, derives from two words: misereri, meaning “to have pity on” or “compassion for” and cor, meaning “heart” (genitive case — cordis: “of the heart”). Mercy, therefore, carries the idea of having compassion on someone with all one’s heart. The latter phrase expresses the idea: “From the very inmost depth (or core) of one’s being.
The Sacred Scriptures show clearly that mercy is the greatest “relative” characteristic of God, the attribute that extends over all He created (e.g., Ps 145:9); and it explains the whole plan of salvation: the power (virtue) of a compassionate heart that shares another’s misery to come to that other’s rescue. Saint Thomas, therefore, can fearlessly profess and demonstrate that, with relation to all that exists in creation, mercy is the greatest divine attribute (Summa Th., IIa IIae30, 4c).
A “composite” definition of “mercy” (based on definitions found in various dictionaries) would go like this: A feeling of tenderness, aroused by someone’s distress or suffering, which inclines (causes) one to spare (abstain from killing/hurting) or to help another who is in one’s power and has no claim whatever to (or is completely undeserving of) kindness. Another definition would be: pardon given to someone who could be punished (often used with reference to God when He forgives sin).
Both these definitions make quite understandable what Pope John Paul II expounded in his encyclical on the Mercy of God in Part VII, no. 13, par. 4:
It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which “God so loved … that He gave His only Son” (Jn 3:16), that God, who “is love” (1 Jn 4:8), cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy.
The essence of mercy is to take into account not only that which is strictly due (as is the case with justice), but also weaknesses, infirmities, and defects of all kinds; and in considering them, to give more than is required by merit and to soften the blow that guilt deservingly brings upon itself through the shutting off, by sin, of the flow of God’s goodness. Divine Mercy, therefore, by no means signifies some sort of sentimental emotion (as certain pagan philosophers saw it, branding it “a weakness excusable only in old people and children”)
Mercy is love, plain and simple. However, as humans we tend to conditionalize love, by placing “if [blank] then I can love” types of boundaries on it. We pray for the issues that we can relate to, people we know and judge (sometimes judging unconsciously, many times not) that other situations are not as dire and choose not to include them in our prayers, our mercy. That is not part of our beliefs as Catholic Christians. God’s love is unconditional and we are meant to imitate his love.
I forget that I need the mercy of the Lord just as every person in the world does. I am not called to judge or withhold love and mercy. I am called to bring forth the mercy poured out by Christ on the cross into the world. We do this by embracing and embodying the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
You know what’s on your heart and on your mind regarding mercy. Listen to this song as a closing prayer, “What Mercy Did for Me”. You know what needs to be done.
Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here firstname.lastname@example.org.