Saturday, October 21, 2023

How Can We Learn to Give and Receive Mercy?

Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). The need for mercy presses itself upon us in these days, as the clouds of war darken the skies all around us. War should remind us that we are all broken and conflicted within ourselves, and in our daily relationships with one another. Jesus tells us to “be merciful” to one another, but it’s so difficult. How can we learn to give and receive mercy?

Sometimes it seems like we're trying to put "mercy" in a box and dole it out according to our own measure. This is an effort that cannot succeed, and it's just as well because our measure is so meager.

The mercy of other people is at best a sign and an instrument of the ineffable, overflowing mercy of God. We must turn to Him, beg for His mercy, and ask Him for the grace to be drawn by His love so that we will adhere to Him and trust in His mercy.

I beg to remember His abiding love every day, to remain in Him, to trust in His mercy. He knows me. In His mercy He knows the undying thirst of my soul; He knows my heart's longing in a way that I don't even begin to understand. I pray that I might trust in Him to lead me to my destiny.

I want to live this relationship with the God who makes me exist in this very moment, the God who is Infinite Love. I want to live in adoration and gratitude to the God who is all-powerful and all-good beyond my understanding, the God who is “my Father.” I must trust in His mercy to give me what I need (because I don't know what I need — I don't really know my true self). I must trust in His mercy also to break off from me the things that keep me from attaining the real fulfillment for which I have been made, which is nothing else but Him.

I need to trust His tenderness and His gentleness, which endure even when all other affirmations or consolations are absent and I feel abandoned and alone. In this solitude I can only cry out to Him and long for Him in the firm conviction that He hears me, He wants me, and that the darkness and emptiness are the vast spaces of the mystery of His inexhaustible Heart that holds me.

I know that God “wants” me because He has sent His Son (God from God, the Person of the Father’s Son, who is always with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the inexhaustible mystery of the Trinity, the Mystery of Eternal Love, the One God who is a communion of Three Persons). He has loved me—and all of us—in His Son, His “Word” who is not only “spoken to us” but who has become flesh, taken our human nature, born of the Virgin Mary to dwell with us, die for our sins, rise from the dead to create us anew. 

Jesus is God made man, our brother, and He loves us. He came into my life, my own history, first — through an event, my Baptism. And through His enduring presence in His Church, I grow in this encounter with Him—adhering to Him through faith, in the life of faith, hope, and love that His Spirit engenders within me. I believe too that He loves every person, and that this same Holy Spirit is at work in the history of every person, working within the mystery of their own freedom, drawing each of them according to a wisdom greater than our understanding. 

I can trust in God, who has taken hold of my whole life (and who embraces the life of every person) through the humanity of Jesus Christ. Jesus knows who I am, and He carries me in my suffering and accompanies me through all the depths of darkness and the experience of feeling abandoned and alone. He has made those depths His own. His mercy is His brokenness on the Cross, which He invites me to share.

The best way we can show mercy to one another is to help bear one another's burdens. We are called to open our hearts—with great humility—to the mystery of the other person's suffering. This is what we need from one another. It is the way that we can discover the presence of Jesus in every person's life, not with condescension but with a great reverence for the person.

I must welcome this person, because this person is loved by Jesus. It is the great Heart of Jesus that gives value and dignity to every person and to all our relationships. Whenever I speak to a person, my words should be shaped by the desire that Jesus come more fully to us both — to heal us in His mercy and draw us together along the paths of His mercy. I beg for the grace of this humility, for myself, for you — my dear brother or sister — for all of us. I am not “naturally” humble or welcoming of others. None of us are, in the measure that God calls us to be. He calls us to be like Him. We cannot make ourselves “like Him” by our own strength; we need the transforming power of His grace that forgives our sins, gives us a share in His life, and empowers us to live in a new way — to love one another and to be merciful to one another. We must all beg for the grace of this adoring responsiveness in love to the God who is Love.

As Pope Francis says, "We cannot trust in our own strength, but only in Jesus and in His mercy." Indeed, our strength is much too small to fathom the mercy of God. Our strength is too frail to bear His weakness on the cross.

Jesus, enable me to be merciful.
Have mercy on me.
Make me an instrument of Your mercy.

Jesus, I trust in You.