When we talk about mercy, we are talking about one of the attributes of God, just like God is Love. He is Father of all mercies. He is God of all comfort (2Cor.1:3). He is God who is rich in mercy (Eph.2:4) and His mercy lasts from age to age (Lk. 1:50). It is out of the abundance of His mercy that God sent His Divine Mercy, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to save us. In action, Christ witnessed Him and in words, Christ proclaimed Him. Christ lavished his love and mercy on us all despite our sinfulness and upon his creatures and so let all his creatures give thanks to his for his mercy endures forever (Ps. 107).
In this present age, most people remain faithful and believe in the mercy of God while lots of people have doubted and have lost faith in this important attribute of God in Christ, may be the cause of this should be there so as to separate those who have faith in God. Our own faith can only be tested through challenges, works and hardships as Christians. It is in these challenges of our comfort that we will come to know that God distributed his mercies in every situation we found ourselves. May be we should leave those challenges that bequeath our lives and consequently makes us to ask question if God is really merciful and compassionate, and focus more on ourselves, who are also ‘gods’ whom others beg for mercy and love and most of the times do not get it. We cannot understand fully the depth of God’s mercy and we cannot know all his mercy each one of us receives every moment of our life; but we can see and understand ourselves as human beings and how we relate to others in terms of mercy. We should ask ourselves personal questions: how loving and merciful am I, not just verbal response but can I remember one or two occasions when I have shown mercies to somebody for the sake of Christ. Do I have any room for mercy in my heart without judgment especially when justice is demanded?
Mercy and love are not theories in Christian living but they are practical we ought to live out. They are needed in everyone’s life. Mercy is something that can be well described as ‘give and take’ just as Christ teaches that ‘blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy’ (Mt. 5:7). God manifested his bountiful mercies in the parable of the prodigal son and the Good Samaritan (Go and do the same). Can someone forgive without being motivated by the mercy and love of God? Otherwise it does not come from the innermost heart. Can someone stop, bandage the wounds of a stranger beaten and left to die without being led by the mercy and love of God? When we show mercies, it is the same mercies we wish to receive from our fellow human beings anywhere and at anytime and situations which are motivated by God, who is the father of all mercies. If we are such an angry person or impatient person, if we are unforgiving person and judgmental, the one who avenges offense of others, at the end of the day we receive what we sow, the amount we measure out will be the amount we will be given, in the same way ‘there will be judgment without mercy for those who have been merciful themselves; but the merciful need have no fear of judgment’ (Jas. 2:12-13), also the Psalmist says, ‘happy the man who has a concern for the helpless; the Lord will save him in time of trouble. God has been an example to us; he has declared to Moses that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and faithfulness. In many areas, God cited justice but not without mercy and salvation (Is.45:21; 51:5, 8; 56:1), so that we will not misunderstand justice with mercy especially as they relate to God in dealing with his people. Many people have taken justice to the highest level and consequently, many people have suffered in this way. One would ask where is love (mercy) in the midst of justice. We are called to render justice with mercy, if we do not we know that we are master of our own and of our own teaching.
Pope john Paul writes in his encyclical, The Mercy of God that ‘mercy is in a certain sense contrasted with God’s justice, and in many cases is shown to be not only more powerful than that justice but also more profound’ ‘although justice is an authentic virtue in man and in God signifies transcendence perfection, nevertheless, love is greater than justice; greater in the sense that it is primary and fundamental. Love so to speak, conditions justice and in the final analysis justice serves love (mercy). The primacy and superiority of love vi-a-vis justice, mercy differs from justice but is not in opposition to it (11 1980, no.4). A just man will always be merciful and motivated by the love of God. Christ showed mercy to the poor, he provided food to the hungry. He showed mercy to the sick by healing and curing them both physically and spiritually. He showed mercy to the sinners not by judging or condemning them but by forgiving and reconciling them to the Father. He pitied and showed mercy to those who are like sheep without shepherd by shepherding and proclaiming Goodnews to them, and providing them with shepherds. For all of us who have benefited from the abundance of God’s mercies we ought to show that same mercy to others. One may ask: how can I show mercy to anyone? The church teaches us different ways to do that especially in exercising both the corporal work of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy. We can use these works of mercies to summarize whom we are called to be. In corporal work of mercy, we are called to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to comfort the afflicted and those in prison, to visit the sick and care for them, and to bury the dead. The question in this part is: how do I participate in these corporal works of mercy. I am sure no one would ask the question how to visit the sick or feed the hungry, etc. In the spiritual aspect of mercy, we are expected to admonish sinners, to instruct the uninformed (not taking the advantage of another person’s ignorance), to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to be patient with those in error, to forgive the offense (not judging and punishing their wrongdoings before letting go) and then pray for the living and the dead. Again I am sure no one would ask how do we forgive, comfort the sorrowful or brotherly and sisterly correct the sinners, etc. In doing the work of mercies, we are living our Christian life. In one of St Vincent Pallotti’s writings, he exhausts his members and all ‘to learn from the Lord to be merciful to your brethren. Trust that you will receive from him a loving and compassionate heart. Be zealous, industrious, patience, simple, self-effacing in a word, be perfect as one formed and rooted in infinite love. Help in every possible way the sinners and the poor, where you cannot reach them with your alms, reach them with your desire, your exhortation, your prayers, your good examples, thus you will acquire mercy (Yearning of Soul by Flavian Bonifazi). This is also a way of responding to the invitation of our loving Father ‘to be merciful even your Father is merciful’ (Lk.6:36).
BY REV. FR. MARCEL CHIBUZO EMERIBE, SAC