Monday, January 30, 2006

Contemplation #97
How do I know if I am growing into the mercy of God? One question to ask is do I hurt when those deserving punishment receive it? Our Father of all mercies takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, even those who choose it (Ezekiel 18:30-32). If we feel satisfaction when the guilty are judged, when people reap what they sow, then we have yet to learn the mercy of God. We have all received mercy because God chooses to give us what we do not deserve. Learning to be merciful means having compassion on the guilty.

Contemplation #98
Mercy is one aspect of the love of God. We are called into the love of God, to be shaped and formed in love and through love. God is teaching us the nature of his love, and his love is expressed in mercy. The love of God is a love for righteousness, and also having mercy on the thoroughly guilty. In fact, there is no shade of difference between the love of the Father for the sinless Son and God’s love for the vilest sinner. This is why the love of God can work forgiveness through the Son to the most wretched person. This is hard to imagine, but we are loved in all with the same love Jesus has for the Father, and the Father for the Son. When I am in full rebellion against God, his love is not diminished, and his mercy is poured out on me. And this . . . changes me.

Contemplation #99
Spiritual, mystical union with God’s love is what forms us and heals all our wounds. Being immersed in the mercy of God personally and inwardly will not leave us in our former states of pride and selfishness. Meditating on the mercy of God, keeping the cross of love before us constantly so that our lives are interrupted by its presence, leads to an inner transformation that shares in divine love. We must open ourselves, renounce our judgmental impulses, our self-righteous gloating, and welcome God’s love and mercy unto the remaking of our being. May the Father of all mercies have children of all mercies.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Contemplation #94
Bringing mercy into our relationships is where we must do some of our hardest work. Are we only pleased with our spouse because he or she does right? Can we be only as happy with this closest of persons as she or he acts in pleasing ways? Is this not only self-love . . . and where is mercy?

Like love for our neighbor which comes from who we are in God and is not dependent on the actions or disposition of the neighbor, mercy is compassion on our neighbor. Mercy will treat another with all the tenderness of forgiveness as if this person were the most deserving friend, despite who that person might actually be. Being merciful will infuse life into a struggling relationship, if only we have the humility to be merciful.

Contemplation #95
Mercy is possible only through humility. Pride demands judgment and is unrelenting in insisting that all requirements be met . . . often in the name of righteousness and holiness. Prideful people are hard on themselves and everyone around them, but through humility and lowliness of heart we learn to be gracious and merciful. Let us err, if we must, in mercy rather than judgment . . . for God has promised to judge where necessary. A humble person is exceedingly merciful, knowing how necessary mercy is to his or her own life in God. Until we become fluent in humility, mercy will remain an elusive virtue which seems to go too far.

Contemplation #96
Do we have the faith to be merciful? Faith is our trust in God, and mercy is our choice to do the opposite of condemn. Sometimes we fear that if we do not judge, or if we are too merciful, others will get away with what they should not. Being merciful when we have this inclination to see evil punished takes complete trust in God. When we have faith in God we are able to be merciful, as we have been instructed, and know that God will judge. This is God’s Word to us, and we must believe it, and live according to it. Not only is mercy related to love and humility, it is only as mature as our faith in God. Because God is faithful and holy, we can be merciful to everyone.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Contemplation #91
When we learn even a little of the mercy of God, we rightfully desire to be wholly compassionate with others. The first people we would have been previously quick to condemn, those with ‘obvious’ sin or wickedness that we find personally foreign and repulsive, become subjects of our tender concern. Sometimes those who were engaged in the very same actions as ourselves received the sharpest criticism, but acceptance of mercy allows us to let mercy triumph over judgment. However, the ones who would have stood with us in our previous way of condemnation, heartily agreeing with us, now become our greatest tests for mercy. Having mercy on the blatant sinner is sometimes easier than being merciful with the unmerciful . . . particularly if we were once as self-righteous.

Contemplation #92
David answered Gad, "I have great anxiety. Please, let us fall into the Lord's hands because His mercies are great, but don't let me fall into human hands." (2 Samuel 24:14)

When David sinned as king, he believed that God would be more merciful than any human being. David knew the compassion of God even on someone undeniably guilty. Recognizing where there is guilt is not too difficult, but knowing how to be like God toward the guilty is immensely challenging. Mercy is not the ignoring of guilt, but a loving and forgiving way of treating all who are mired in sin. By mercy we act to foster their escape from the spiritual shackles that hold them, rather than condemning them for being in prison.

Contemplation #93
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

God is the Father of mercies who pours forth tender compassion and grace. God is also the One who judges and punishes rebelliousness and wickedness. Though we have been instructed to be merciful and not to judge, in our sinfulness we prefer to judge rather than to show mercy . . . often claiming fidelity to God in the process. God has told us to emulate his mercy, and to refrain from assuming to judge. We misperceive reality when being radically merciful is seen as unfaithful to God, and judging is interpreted as careful adherence to His way. According to what God has told us to do, the exact opposite would be true.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Contemplation #88
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

What does it mean for us to be merciful? Mercy is a gentle desire for the healing, comfort, well-being, and restitution of even the guilty who deserve nothing but harsh judgment. We are merciful when our love for the person negates any desire for us to see them “get what they deserve.” The humble love for others that we have been contemplating, which results from our love for God, creates such a tenderness of compassion that we would prefer the loss of ourselves for even our enemies. This is mercy.

Contemplation #89
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

If, when we contemplate how mercy prefers healing of the guilty over their punishment, what jumps to our minds are objections, exceptions, and how truth, justice, and rightness countermands this definition of mercy, then we see how far from true mercy we are. It is easy to refuse the essence of mercy because of a so-called noble desire for purity, or rightness, but what is revealed is how much we have yet to learn about humility, love of God, and the love of others. Aspire not to find the limits of mercy, under what conditions we must no longer be merciful, but rather to practice being merciful especially where mercy seems inappropriate. Here we begin to taste true mercy, because if it is anything, it is thoroughly undeserved.

Contemplation #90
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Being merciful and receiving the same is more than a series of transactions, between us and others, and God and ourselves. Jesus says blessed are the merciful and not blessed are those who do merciful acts. The latter would make mercy a work instead of a lifestyle. The merciful are people who live a certain way, and not just who do or think in merciful ways at certain times. Mercy is a disposition toward others that is loving and desiring of their blessing no matter how much they deserve evil. Being merciful people leads to innumerable actions and thoughts because it is a new nature combining both humility and love.