There seems (at least to me) to be this sort of gathering storm – you can see the clouds roiling in the distance, sense the change in the air, the stiffening of the breeze – and as the storm approaches, it becomes harder to ignore. It grows louder. It is inevitable. This Lent, (and if I am honest, even in the weeks leading up to it) that gathering storm has been the theme of Mercy. Mercy. Over and over again. Mercy. In our retreats, our reflections, in books we pick up, passages of Scripture that catch our attention, programs we are a part of, talks we listen to. Mercy.
If you’ve made it this far into Lent and perhaps now need something to pull you through to the other side, something else to make a part of your routine, or even something to inspire you, mercy is the horse to which you should hitch your wagon.
What counts above all else is ‘faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6). Works of love directed to one’s neighbor are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit … Thomas [Aquinas] thus explains that, as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues…
–The Joy of the Gospel #37
What we want to keep right there in front of our face, not only during Lent but all year round, is the unfathomable and extraordinary merciful love with which God loves us. The merciful love with which Christ gave up his life for us in perfect friendship with us – begs the question – how can we not respond with love and mercy ourselves?
The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord was an act of merciful love. But that merciful love wasn’t a one act play. He continues to shower us with mercy; forgiving our sinfulness, constantly being present to us, guiding us, blessing us. Our response the rest of this Lenten season (and then beyond) should be the practice of mercy too, however we can carry that out.
Forgive those who have hurt us or wronged us in some way. Love someone who is difficult to love. Sacrifice something for someone in need. Give of yourself. Be present. Spend time. Be kind. If nothing else, we have been promised that “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” [Mt 5:7]. As far from perfect as we all are, this is a promise that should give us hope and a sense of joy. We cannot deny how much mercy God has sent our way. But can we deny that we respond appropriately for such a great and continuous gift?