Pope Francis speaks often of mercy. It may indeed be his most used word other than that of Christ himself. We each need to stand under the waterfall of the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God. He said, ‘how much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgement before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy. We have to put mercy before judgement. God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy which is infinite’.
When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning—and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. It has been said by some that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have been there and come back. To have mercy means there is no tit for tat. Withholding forgiveness from anyone is a form of power over another person, a way to manipulate, shame, control and diminish another.
As Richard Rohr, author of ‘Falling Upward’, puts it ‘Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. He is not loyal to any one religion, or this or that group, or the ‘worthy’ ones -Jesus is loyal tosuffering itself, wherever it is’. He is just as loyal to the suffering of Ukraine as he is to Russia, as loyal to the sufferings of the British as the Irish. He is just as loyal to an oppressed gay man as he is to an oppressed married woman.
He strips all of our self-created societal boundaries away from us, and suddenly we are naked all we have is a ‘free fall into the arms of the mercy of God our Father’. Remember, ‘Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown to them’. (Matthew 5:7). Perhaps we are only finally enlightened when we can both receive mercy and give it away without payment or punishment. As Christians we are called on not to pass judgement but to dispense Mercy – not always an easy thing to do.
Adapted from a sermon given by the late Father Paddy O’Doherty, Moville, Co Donegal.
Thought for the week
It isn’t the things you do,
It’s the things you leave undone,
which give you a little heart ache
at the setting of the sun.
The gentle word forgotten,
the letter you didn’t write;
the flowers you might have sent,
are your haunting ghosts tonight.
The stone you might have lifted
out of your brother’s way;
the little heart-felt counsel
you were hurried too much to say.
The tender touch of the hand,
the gentle and kindly tone,
which we have neither time nor thought to give
saying we have troubles enough of our own.