“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.”
What is mercy? What does it mean to be merciful, and to be shown mercy? We know that Catholics really love the term mercy, as even Pope Francis has established that this canonical year, in the Catholic church, is the year of mercy. The USCCEB (which, if you’ve been reading my reflections thus far, are a source that I have no problem linking to) have this to say on mercy on their site dedicated to the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “How can we show others the mercy of God? We say that God is compassionate, but we ignore the poor. We say that God loves us and has mercy on us, but we hold grudges against our friends. Our actions need to authentically reflect God’s mercy.”
But this still begs the question, what exactly is mercy?
Mercy is to be in a position to treat others harshly, but instead to show kindness. It is present, at least as a possibility, in how we treat one another, on an everyday basis. Jesus calls those who are merciful, those who exercise mercy on a regular basis, blessed. They will be shown mercy.
How then do we show mercy? Well, on an everyday basis we can be much kinder to the people we encounter and interact with, especially if we are inclined not to. We can better care for our friends and neighbors, and show love and kindness to those who we cross paths on. We may be more charitable of our comments and posts on the internet, and we maybe give others the benefit of the doubt, especially when it seems they may have wronged us.
But that’s only half the battle. We maybe merciful to those in our everyday lives, but how can we be more merciful to the oppressed, the marginalized, the ones who are forced into the shadows, and by that very nature we hardly interact with. Well, we can be merciful in our beliefs. If we understand that all human life is precious, we can advocate against guns, warfare, the bombing of civilians, the death penalty, and also advocate for better public education and healthcare for those who cannot afford it. All of these positions are pro-life because they all advocate for the dignity of all human life, especially those who are alive but struggling. That is to say that being anti-abortion is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pro-life issues. If you want to be merciful, reflect on how we treat strangers, immigrants and migrants, the less fortunate, those with limited resources and who work very low wage jobs, if they are able to work at all. Those who are ill and incarcerated. In all of the places where we might be “justified” in being harsh, are we kind anyway?
If you believe that all lives matter, but you feel that movements such as Black Lives Matter aren’t productive or are hurtful with their messages, are you justified in treating them harshly, or are we called to be kind and to listen?
In general, when you disagree with someone’s rhetoric or behaviors, and you feel that it would be okay to respond with harsh treatment, should you act kind instead? Should you openly love and listen, and care about what they might be saying, even if you disagree?
I believe the answer is yes, because that is what mercy most tangibly looks like. Pray for your enemies, because they need prayers just as much as your friends and family do. But also listen, because what is prayer without corresponding action?
My other reflections on the Beatitudes, thus far.
My image tonight was just that of the Holy Spirit. This is a beautiful image, but I also feel the Holy Spirit is what stirs the courage for mercy within our own hearts.