M is for Mercy


New weekly musings inspired by the alphabet... 

Strangely, this is the first time I’ve written about mercy but it’s in my thoughts always. I love the word, how it feels on my tongue. It’s a lot like grace – always there, always showing up – but unlike grace, mercy is easier to recognize. But there’s a whole lot of grace in mercy, too. 

When I’m leading a worship service, I usually include this phrase in near the end of my community prayer: We give thanks for the blessings and the mercies of our lives. For the joys and the sorrows, for the sufferings and the celebrations – for everything that makes our human existence so remarkable.

We are called to “count our blessings” but we also need to be aware of the mercies that come into our lives. The moments of forgiveness and kindness, the moments of unexpected connection, laughter and tears at the same time, the near-misses, the too-close-to-calls, the that-went-better-than-expected. 
How about the mercy of gifting a chocolate cake to someone you don’t like or trust? Grace and mercy wrapped up together? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one but honestly, there’s something about it that fills me with contentment. It is possible…  

One of my favourite Jesus quotes isn’t from a parable, and it’s Jesus himself quoting a verse from the Hebrew scriptures (Hosea 6:6). He’s responding to the Pharisees, best known as the legal experts on the laws of Judaism, when they complained that Jesus was hanging out with “sinners and tax collectors” – hanging out with the wrong crowd, the outsiders, the no-gooders, instead of with the in crowd at the temple and the do-gooders. 

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” 
Or in another translation, “I’m after mercy, not religion.” 

Meaning: I want to see a change in your heart. I want you to love your neighbours. I want you to take care of each other. I want you to create a better world right here, right now. 

After two years of this pandemic, and the resulting pushback against the very help people demanded – fix it! heal us! do all this for us! – and now with the unjust war that is needlessly and horribly destroying the country of Ukraine, a war that is reminding us of other unjust wars that we barely paid attention to, it makes me wonder what’s the point? 

What is the point of our faith? What is the point of saying the world needs more Jesus? To what end? To feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to bury the dead. And to remember. To act with kindness and humility, to speak words of mercy and goodness, and to be grateful and helpful, even in – or especially in – the midst of unbearable grief. 

Our faith makes us strong. Whatever we believe in -- whether we believe in God or we believe in love. Whatever gives us strength gives us hope. 
And in our strength, with that hope, we help each other. We love each other. We take care of each other. 

What a blessing and a mercy that is. 

~ SJ


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