We have been gifted this year by the Pope himself. The gift that he has given us is Mercy, one of those things that is more precious than money. So what have you done with that gift so far? Have you even thought about it? You received your gift on December 8. That’s a month past already, did you even unwrap the package yet?
Like all perfect gifts, picked out for each of us, this one works on many levels. First, it is pleasing, next it is generous, then it is challenging and last it is healing. Who doesn’t want mercy on all levels? But if you haven’t done anything with your incredible gift yet, perhaps there are reasons for that. Maybe you aren’t familiar with what is really in front of your eyes? Tell me what does Mercy look like to you? Would your mercy be the winning of the billion dollar lottery? Would your mercy be a call from that perpetually nasty relative apologizing for all the harm they’ve done you over the last twenty years? Maybe it would be someone mysteriously paying off your mortgage or that incredibly needy, elderly neighbor who finally stops calling you for help. Maybe.
Maybe not. While looking for your gift from the Pope it might be a good idea to expand the concept of what mercy means for you. That might give you a better chance of finding the gift. First, remember that the generosities of God are always a two way street. Never prefaced with I but rather we. Second recall that the greatest of God’s gifts are not always neat, tidy or shiny. Last we must remember that when God gives a gift it is meant to be shared.
So, it could be the case that your co-operation in mercy is not happening because you are not certain of what to look for. There are two things that are pretty unmistakable when it comes to spotting an opportunity for the gift of mercy: First, mercy is near when you see a situation and there rises a spark in you that triggers empathy, not pity, empathy. Next, “[m]ercy is the form love takes when it encounters misery” (Father John Dominic Corbett, O.P., Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion, 2016, p.9). This might even be a personal experience. In either situation, mercy shows her face when you have the desire to do something about it and then act. The action taken is mercy. Mercy is a two way street, in a personal misery, allow others to take action on your part. Denial of help is really a selfish act that blocks others from their own practice and gift of mercy.
Make no mistake that mercy is an “interrupter”. Mercy will intrude on the “correct” ordliness of things, the timeliness of things, the control of things. Sometimes mercy is messy or dirty or inconvenient or hard to do. But mercy is pure gift from God Himself. Which would you rather have, the graces of mercy or clean shoes? “In our busyness, how easy it is to treat people who need our assistance and attention as interruptions. A person is easily reduced to an obstacle in my way” (Father Richard Veras, Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion, 2016, p.36). “Clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy” (Col 3:12).
Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham
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