Written by Br. Gabriel Torretta, OP
Mercy is a funny thing. We all expect other people to show us mercy, but only rarely do we think other people are right to expect us to show them mercy. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I’m likely to scream and curse; if I cut someone else off, I get angry at him for honking at me—he should have known I didn’t do it maliciously. We are generally convinced that our own good intentions are so obvious that everyone should be able to see them, but other people can’t be trusted with so much confidence.
The fifth beatitude teaches us how to escape the selfish trap of one-way mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Jesus isn’t turning mercy into a spiritual brokerage deal—you give me thirty units of mercy and I give you thirty back. Rather, he’s pointing to the core meaning of mercy. Mercy means love for the other—not stinting, begrudging, or partial love, but love in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.
When we ask for mercy, we are asking to be treated according to what is most deeply true about us: that we are children of God. Mercy does not mean overlooking injustice or turning a blind eye to sin; it means loving the other enough to desire his highest good, to treat him as a son of God. This love is from God, drawing the other out of himself, and simultaneously drawing us out of ourselves. When we show mercy, we receive it because God loves through our love.
Advent is the season of mercy. Each of us is marred by sin, each of us has turned away from God’s love to his own selfish desires, each of us has tried to live by his own strength. Yet in his love God did not demand that we mend our ways before he saved us; he sent his Son to us because he loves us and wants to bring us back to himself. We look forward to the day when his Son will come again, bringing the sons and daughters of God to the kingdom of mercy in heaven.
Today’s meditation: Reflect on the mercy God shows us in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Ask him to increase your devotion to those sacraments.