“Lord-y Mercy!” If you are not from the south, let me translate…”Lord have Mercy!” And, as of this past Tuesday, December 8, that is just exactly what Pope Francis has declared this new year to be… a Jubilee Year of Mercy, one in which we are to follow in our Lord’s footsteps and extend MERCY to all.
“What exactly IS ‘mercy’?’” you may ask.
The word "mercy" in english has it’s roots in many beautiful words throughout the Bible.
In the Old Testament Hebrew we find the word hesed: God's covenant, steadfast "loving kindness." And in the New Testament Greek we see the word eleos: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them. Its meaning in many other languages is related to words such as tenderness, kindness, sweetness, compassion, and pity.
When used in the Old Testament the word hesed, God’s steadfast loving kindness, was very often found in direct relationship to His covenant with His people.
What is a covenant?
Well, believe it or not, a covenant is a “blood-pact” --where one person says, “I will do this forever, if you will do that forever” and to mark the promise they would cut an animal open from head to toe, lay the two parts open opposite each other, walk in between them and say, “May you do that to me if I am unfaithful to the vow.” (Which BTW is where we get walking down the aisle for marriage with the groom’s family on one side and bride’s on the other--thankfully the last bit is not part of the deal.)
When God “cut a covenant” with Abraham, God knew that man could never keep his end of the bargain. Therefore God caused Abraham to “fall into a deep sleep” so that Abraham would never have to walk through the “split me open if…” part of the ceremony. (Genesis 15:9-18) We see that it was really UP TO GOD to keep the covenant by extending MERCY again and again to this “prone to wander” people. And in order to do that, God meted out a great deal of LOVE, FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION, LONG SUFFERING and SACRIFICE so that the “covenant” would work.
Jesus was born for this reason: He is the fulfilment of the True Covenant. He is the once and for all sacrifice, our true “blood covenant” with God (read the book of Hebrews). It is by HIS blood that we enter into relationship with God and therefore receive the full extent of His MERCY, LOVE and FORGIVENESS. All of this is offered to us because of what Christ has done for us on the cross. He is our link between heaven and earth. We, too, are a “prone to wander” people, just as our spiritual ancestors were, and we too are still in need of His MERCY!
Pope Francis says mercy is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” He’s also called Jesus the very face of the Father’s mercy. *
So this Advent, Christmas, and throughout the New Year…
Remember that we are given MERCY, not because we DESERVE it, as we do not. And we are able to extend MERCY, not on the basis that others DESERVE it, as they may not! We love because we have first been greatly loved, we forgive because we have first been greatly forgiven…
God gives us mercy to free us from the bondage of sin and slavery in order to enter into a loving relationship with us. We pass that free gift on to others because we ourselves have been loved and set free. (Thus the JUBILEE! A year in which we focus on forgiveness and healing by encouraging each other to grow spiritually through the sacraments and works of service to promote unity in the Church and in our world. :)
Mercy can be shown through tangible acts of love according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2447:
"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”
The Church organizes works of mercy into two categories:
The corporal works of mercy: Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty, Clothe the naked, Give shelter to the homeless, Visit the sick, Visit the imprisoned, Bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy: Admonish the sinner, Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the sorrowful, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive injuries, Pray for the living and the dead
I pray that this year we will be like God in His hesed-- full of steadfast loving kindness and like Jesus, Who put flesh to that love and extended His hands of mercy to all.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
Thank You for Your MERCIFUL loving kindness! I knew I needed it, but now I am so thankful to know that I can give it away, simply because You give it to me for FREE! May I be as generous in my giving it out as You are. You simply say that the only blockage to my receiving mercy is not seeking it! Please Lord, give me always a desire to want to be right with You and with others. Make my heart burn within me if I am in need of mercy from You or in need of extending mercy to others. I want this to be a true Jubilee Year- not just for me, not just for others...but for You too! I pray that I, and all of the Church can be merciful, can be like Jesus-- just to make You smile :)
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Read more: http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2015/12/07/its-the-year-of-mercy-not-compassion#ixzz3tee57qga http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/homiletics/works-of-mercy.cfm *Thank you Deacon Keith Burney for the sermon on Sunday and the link!