When it feels as if the sky is falling in and the end is near; when we are close to giving up, then, most of all, we must ask for and cling to God’s mercy.
If understanding in our hearts that unconditional love is difficult without God’s supernatural intervention, then grasping God’s mercy is equally challenging. What is mercy? It is defined by our Church as “the loving kindness, compassion or forbearance shown to one who offends.”
The word “mercy” appears in Scripture 149 times. We know, most of us, the Beatitude in Matthew’s Gospel.
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, / for they will be shown mercy.”
The Father wants us to be instruments of mercy.
Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.”
In the Old Testament, God’s mercy is explained in the Book of Exodus.
Exodus 34:6 “So the LORD passed before him, and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity.”
Mercy is closely related to God’s love. I believe it is the cousin of love. Because of God’s love, we receive God’s mercy. To endure trials and hardships, we must remember that we are not alone. The first step is to be open in our hearts to receive this truth: the all-merciful God loves us passionately and completely, for all of eternity.
Please take time to meditate before the Blessed Sacrament and open your heart to receive the love of Christ. When we do that, we gain the strength and courage to withstand the enemy’s attacks and ease our own doubts and fears to find hope. When we hope, we are transformed by the love of Jesus. When we love God, we dwell in His presence.
John 14:23 “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
It is interesting to me that when I am in the greatest pain and adversity, God gives me the greatest opportunity to spread the word of God. Sharing my faith with others is a critical part of giving mercy. My attitude of despair changes immediately when I begin to share my faith in joy regarding the Good News of Jesus Christ—His mercy, forgiveness of sin and redemption. I see the looks on people’s faces as I tell them, “There is no condemnation for those who love Christ Jesus.” Their own pain begins to change as they accept the mercy of Christ.
I had a job that often required me to fly “red-eye” flights from Los Angeles International to Boston’s Logan airport, landing about 5:30 a.m. Grumpy and full of complaining, I would get off the plane and start my long walk to the rental car office.
Along the way, I would pass by a man shining shoes. I got in the habit of stopping and having him work on my shoes. We would talk about life and family. He was always in a great mood. One day, I asked him why. His response?
“I always have a great day because each day I am devoted to helping other people have a great day,” he told me.
I have never forgotten that spiritual truth. Helping others to have a great day makes our troubles and challenges seem insignificant. When I share my faith, two people have a great day—the person to whom I speak and me. God’s mercy and kindness flows through me.
Another step of mercy is fulfilling the purpose of our lives. Each of us is called to be the hands, heart, mind and words of Jesus. We can achieve what God wants for us only by calling upon the release of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit leads us to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
The first spiritual work is “counseling the doubtful.” We draw upon Scripture to give us guidance in speaking with people.
1 Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
We don’t need to explain things with human logic, but rather, we draw our strength from the Holy Spirit. We let God speak through us.
The second spiritual work is “instructing the ignorant.” We learn about our faith and are open to talking to others about what we believe and why. We must educate ourselves and use what we learn to be a blessing to others!
The next spiritual work of mercy is “admonishing the sinner.” Performing this work may feel as if we are judging others; however, it is actually about being the light of Christ to others. People openly sin. They may not fully appreciate that what they do is a sin. Our task is to share the truth—in love—about their actions. They will thank us for it!
The fourth spiritual work is “comforting the sorrowful,” which leads us back to the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they who mourn, / for they will be comforted.”
We must be listeners, actively present to others. When we act in this way, we become Jesus to them! We reassure them that they are not alone, that we—as Jesus does—love and care about them!
“Forgiving injuries” is the next spiritual work of mercy. Forgiving injury may start within each of us. Have you forgiven yourself? For many, forgiving one’s self is a struggle. And many of us wrestle with forgiving those who hurt us. We can carry grudges for years.
Forgiveness, a cornerstone of healing, transforms our hearts and minds. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that we “must forgive those who trespass against us.” The degree to which we forgive is the measure of how much we are forgiven.
The sixth spiritual work of mercy is “bearing wrongs patiently.” Each of us is hurt and will be hurt by others. Often these hurts can lead to depression and a great deal of anxiety. What do we do? First, we pray for those who injure us. Second, we picture them with the eyes of Jesus. Are they loved by Jesus? Forgiven by Jesus? When we see others as Jesus does, our attitude changes, often immediately.
The final spiritual work of mercy is “praying for the living and the dead.” I believe it is very important to build up our faith and defend ourselves against evil by praying fervently each day the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the rosary—surrendering to the love of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the love of the Blessed Mother. Our Blessed Mother is called “the Mother of Mercy.” We ask for her intercession and her immaculate heart to fill us.
Recall what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Bridget of Sweden: “I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy.”
I encourage everyone to adopt the habit of praying daily for the souls in purgatory, to intercede for them through praying the rosary and praising God for the people put into your heart to pray for daily.
When we focus on what God desires for our thoughts and actions, we are also led to the corporal works of mercy. Mother Teresa once said that we can be assured we will be examined upon death by the Lord according to what Jesus taught us.
Matthew 25: 35-36, 40 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. … Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of those least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The first corporal work of mercy is to “feed the hungry.” Do you know people who are hungry? We don’t have to look far to find them. My friend carries canned food in his car and, seeing those hungry in the streets, stops and gives them food. We go to the streets, homeless shelters, food pantries and everywhere in the world to feed those in need. Our worries melt away when we work for the Lord!
The second corporal work of mercy is “give drink to the thirsty.” Billions of people around the world do not have access to clean water, a harsh reality, we, in our nation of wealth, find hard to fathom. Our ministry, Spirit Filled Hearts, partners with “Wells for Life,” an organization dedicated to building 1,000 wells in Uganda. I am pleased we contributed and have been responsible for four of these urgently needed wells.
“Shelter the Homeless”—the third corporal work of mercy—is critical. So many people—men, women and children—live in cars or on the streets. We are responsible for the struggle to secure affordable housing and homeless shelters. It is not easy; however, to do nothing is not God’s will. When we fight for those who have no one to fight for them—those on society’s margins—we become Jesus in action! Guess what? We find ourselves filled with gratitude and not focused on our issues.
One of the most rewarding things for me is to “visit the sick.” We can all practice this corporal work of mercy, beginning with learning who is sick. Ask your pastor, priest or deacon for suggestions on whom to visit. Take along a companion, if feasible, and bring a smile, a rosary if possible, and your prayers! We have seen miracle after miracle when we visit the sick and those in need of God’s love.
One recent example from my life concerned a young man who, following a serious car accident, was in a coma. When we saw him, not much hope remained for his recovery. But Jesus is the God of hope! We prayed a rosary over the young man, had expectant faith and believed in God’s miracles.
We see so many miracles but somehow, someway, the wonder of them always knocks me off my feet. So, I was awestruck when we returned to see the young man. He had regained consciousness and was alert and fully functioning. As if the accident had never happened. Truly a miracle!
When we implement the corporal work of mercy, “visit the prisoners,” we take the love of God into a place of suffering and pain. I was blessed to be involved with detention ministry—or “restorative justice”—for seven years. Each time I brought hope and Jesus with me. Every time, I saw the face of Jesus in those I ministered to as they, in turn, ministered to me.
An example of incredible love was demonstrated one visit as I prayed individually over each of several women inmates. When I reached one woman in line to ask what she wanted me to pray for, she leaned over and whispered, “My bunkie who has no one to pray for her.” Such incredible love!
“Bury the dead” and “give alms to the poor” are the final two corporal works of mercy. Find out if your church or parish has a bereavement ministry and join or start one. Comfort those hurting from the loss of loved ones.
Locate a charity to support with your time, talent and treasure. Make sure your money is actually going to services for the poor. There are so many worthy organizations. Help them make a difference!
The final thought regarding God’s mercy is to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. This prayer helps us focus on those in need of Jesus’ love and mercy. God will bless us tremendously. The Divine Mercy devotion helps and encourages us to consecrate our lives to Jesus and only Jesus. We receive His mercy and grow in holiness. We ask God to help us do His will by loving His people and being agents of His mercy.
Remember the ABCs of mercy: Ask for mercy, Be merciful to others and Completely trust in Jesus.
When we focus on being an instrument of mercy and open to receive mercy, our lives are transformed by the love of Jesus. We no longer concentrate on our own challenges and pain but on becoming part of the solution of hope and love to others!