Be merciful just as your Heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36)
I had just begun operating a patient when the nurse informed me that a mother brought her son who had stuffed a chickpea up his right nostril. She seemed frantic but there was nothing I could do at that moment and since my surgery would last at least 3 hours, I told the nurse to tell her to sit down and wait.
I was very sure that she would get up and go consult another doctor; but 3 hours later, I went out and was amazed to see her still sitting and waiting.
I removed the chickpea immediately for which she was so grateful that she nearly burst into tears. I asked her why she waited for so long and didn’t go elsewhere, to which she replied, ‘Whom else could I go to doctor? You are the only doctor in this area and I have no private transport.‘
That very evening, I needed to consult a skin specialist for a terrible rash that I had developed all over my body since the past couple of days.
As I sat outside the clinic waiting for my turn, I realised that whoever we are, we all need help. Today we may help someone but the very next instance, we may need to be helped.
Isn’t God’s mercy somewhat like that?
We are all in need of the mercy of God and no matter how much we do, it will never be enough to outweigh God’s mercy. Christ saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but only according to his mercy. (Titus 3:5)
Just as God continues to be merciful to us, it is necessary for us to extend this mercy to others.
As St. Vincent de Paul writes,
“Extend your mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His Mercy from us?”
Since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has placed before us the Church’s teaching on mercy and has courageously lived it out, both in word and deed.
“People tend to think of mercy as it is portrayed on TV or in movies, which is usually someone who is grovelling and saying ‘have mercy on me!‘ or pleading with someone who is prone to violence to spare them,” said Joe Paprocki, a catechist and author of several books.
So what exactly is mercy? The word itself is derived from the Latin word ‘misericordia‘, which can be translated as either mercy or compassion.
As Fr. James Keenan, a Jesuit puts it; mercy is perhaps best understood as
“the willingness to enter into the chaos of others.”
That may mean going out of our way a little bit or treating people with extra care, compassion and kindness. That’s what God does with us, and when we do it, it is God’s mercy working through us.
Showing mercy to others is one of the most important aspects of the Catholic faith. But the mercy we show toward one another is only a small reminder of the great Divine Mercy of God.
We all need Divine Mercy. It takes humility to admit this, but once we do, our hearts are finally open to receive it. Without Divine Mercy we are lost, with it we are found.
As a helpful guide to being more merciful, the Catholic Church has established a list of 14 acts known as the works of mercy.
The Catechism further breaks down the works into two categories: corporal and spiritual. To simplify things, a few works that we could perform are:
- Have a food kit in your car of some non-perishable food items which you could give to a hungry beggar on the street;
- Offer to pay for your friend’s lunch or drink;
- Make a fast for a month of only drinking water and avoiding soft drinks, juices etc and offer it up for those in need;
- Lead a bible study with your friends and afterwards all go out for coffee;
- Take time to meditate on God’s thirst for souls and pray for the grace to help bring Him souls;
- Donate unused clothes to an orphanage, old aged home or street kids;
- Pray for the virtue of modesty in your dress and that you may reflect Christ and give Him glory by what you wear;
- Go through your closet and simplify your wardrobe;
- Send a package to orphanages near you or around the city;
- Become pen pals with a child from an orphanage;
- Volunteer your time at your local hospital and spend some quality time reading or playing games with the kids and their families;
- Visit the elderly at a nursing home;
- Send flowers or even a card to someone you know in the hospital;
- Find out who are the homebound at your local parish and help bring the Eucharist to them;
- Whenever you’re in a group of your peers, look for someone who may be struggling internally, who may be afflicted on the inside and go over and talk to them and let them know you care about them;
- Get a group of friends to write letters full of encouragement and hope for your local prison;
- Find ways to help local families whose loved one may be in prison;
- Pray outside of hospitals where abortions are conducted and pray for the souls of the precious babies who lost their lives;
- Help raise money for families who can’t afford to have a nice funeral for their loved one;
- Volunteer your time to help a widow or widower with housework;
- The next time you drive by a cemetery instead of holding your breath, stop and say this prayer for the souls of your friends or family members: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Christ’s sacrifice is the greatest work of mercy known to mankind; so when you perform a work of mercy you do it as a witness and in emulation of His great act.
During this year of mercy, may we find more and more ways to step out of our comfort zones and be willing to enter into the chaos of others.
For truly, blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)