FROM ST. AUGUSTINE SPIRITUALITY CENTER
Sister Rosemarie Goins, CSSF Director
Mercy is probably one of the most difficult virtues to practice. As human beings, we are so prone to the phrase, “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.” Matthew 5: 38-42 Even Jesus comments on it. He goes further and says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you…”
Luke 6: 27-38 This is a pretty hard teaching and it seems to go against everything in our nature. But, then, that is why Jesus came to this earth to teach us how to be truly human, as we were meant to be from the beginning of human existence.
Babies have a natural tendency to imitate their parents’ facial expressions and actions. They are wired to be loving, but if all they see is sourness and discontent, they will be likewise. From an early age children have to be taught how to share and to be generous, respectful and loving. We see children fighting over toys and crayons; they are jealous and resentful. If not corrected, they grow into adulthood with these tendencies. Of course, they need to see these behaviors in us. Unfortunately, our sinful behavior is passed down to our children generation after generation. Just look how hard it is to erase racism and greed. Sin is taught. Early formation is so important, if we want a different tomorrow. We see how difficult it is to change behavior as an adult; we see it in ourselves. How blessed are we that we have a merciful God.
A good example of mercy is the story from the Old Testament about the time David and a friend had the opportunity to kill King Saul, as he lay sleeping. He resisted and took his water jug and spear instead. He would not slew the anointed of God. The next day he stood on a hill at a distance and showed the items to Saul’s whole camp and told them that God had delivered them into his hands. 1 Samuel 26: 2m 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” Luke 6: 36-38
What marvelous rewards for being a compassionate person. How do we learn to be merciful? Jesus gave us a simple formula, “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” John 15: 12
If we are looking for a resolution or practice for Lent, which starts next week, we have it in these readings from the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary time. This will be much harder than any abstaining from candy or food. It may take pretty much of a change of heart or a complete about face. As a start for Lent, we could take time to reflect on our life and behavior to see where we have been and where we want to go to be more compassionate. A plan could be discussed with the whole family or a group of friends. Read the references from Matthew and Luke and then see what goals can be set as a group. Children love to play games. See how many times a day you can catch yourself judging, criticizing or speaking unkindly. A little knotted cord could be used. Each time you fail, tie a knot. Ask God for mercy each time.
Recently, I wanted to find out how I could really pray contemplatively in the Franciscan
tradition. These very actions that Jesus warns about are what prevents this kind of prayer. I was surprised, as I tried to see how many times I fall into this trap, that it was quite frequent, especially at Mass. “Look at what she is wearing.” “Can’t they control their kids?” “Why aren’t they genuflecting?” etc., etc., etc. Ho, hum. I have a lot of cleaning up to do. During the News is another time. Don’t we all?
May your week be filled with joy and peace,