Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Like most boys, I grew up playing dumb games like “Mercy” with my friends. The goal is to grab hands and bend and twist your opponents hands until they cry out for you to stop (or vice versa). And the way you signal you give up is to say, “Mercy.” This probably isn’t the best introduction for a word that has so much compassion and love built into it. The game makes it seem like mercy is merely the whim of a bully who has already gotten what he wanted, not the loving intervention of someone in power who can prevent the worst from happening.
But God shows us mercy all the time. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, sinners that we are. In fact, when we cry out for God to stop our suffering at the hands of others doing evil to us, the fact that he hasn’t smitten them demonstrates his mercy to them. As St Paul notes, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We are all spared some degree of just deserts precisely because God wants no one to perish, but for everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
So Jesus blesses those who show the same patience and long-suffering he does with us. In fact, showing mercy places you in a position of power. You have the power to hold a wrong against someone until they pay…or you can forgive and allow the Spirit to begin the process of convicting their hearts so they say their sorry, make amends as able, and pave the way to potential reconciliation. If we choose the route he (the One to whom all authority in heaven and earth belongs) has taken – to show mercy – then we will be granted mercy at least as much as we’ve had the chance to show it. And to me, the sinner I know I can be sometimes, I can’t imagine a better blessing than to know mercy to available when I invariably mess up.
Thank you, Father, for the gift of mercy and for giving me the chance to show mercy just as you’ve shown me. Amen.