Posted on: 2015-12-03

Mercy is God's name

"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good for his mercy endures forever" (Ps 118:1, 136:1). So goes the refrain from both psalms here cited, two only of the numerous verses which proclaim the mercy of God in the Bible. Such appraisal of God is not mere platitude because in the relationship between God and man in the history of salvation, mercy is the dominant factor. When God made the irreversible covenant with His people in the Bible after bringing them out of slavery, he said: "I will make my Dwelling among you and I will not reject you. I will walk among you; I will be your God and you will be my people" (Lev 26:11-12). It was clear that God's relationship with the people was an unequal one. It was more a covenant of love rather than a contract. Man did not really bring that much to the table That equation was re-established many times all through Scripture and sealed by Jesus witness and death. It was also eminently confirmed by no less a person than Peter the lead apostle of Jesus' who wrote of God's people: "At one stage you were no people, but now you  are God's people, you had not received mercy, but now you have been given mercy" (1Pet 2:10). Mercy, indeed is God's name.  

Our world needs mercy

Few people would contest our need for divine  mercy in today's world. Prayers for Divine Mercy have become a permanent feature of Christian  practice and devotion over the last decades. Just as well, in a world fast succumbing to multiple vices of corruption, decadence, violence, war , oppression, and various forms of inhumanity and Godlessness. Pope Francis is eager to teach that the Church's mission is as a witness of mercy and compassion. He has called for the celebration of a Holy jubilee Year of Mercy, from December 8, 2015  till November 20, 2016. A  meaningful and relevant celebration of the year is to challenge the Church and God's people to promote and engage in prayer and action which will make God's mercy more evident in the world. That is why in his document for the declaration of the year he wrote: "Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life. All her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church has an endless desire to show mercy'".  (Bull of Indiction no 10). What a noble task for Christians in all sectors of society!

Blessed are the merciful

Indeed the imperative of mercy does not lie only with Christians. A wicked world affects all its citizens without exception. Except for twisted and damaged people, every human heart feels a tug of compassion and solidarity when a child suffers, when the innocent are punished, when the poor are oppressed or the defenseless exploited. The example of  Jesus Christ applies to all. That it excludes no one is proven by his parables of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) and the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4:5-42). He even said:"Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Solomon Ibn Gabirol once asked: "Of what avail is an open eye if the heart is blind?" Therefore, all opportunities to show mercy to others must be exploited if indeed we believe in a more compassionate and more humane world. As the apostle Paul admonished: "Let everyone then see us as the servants of Christ and stewards of the secret works of God" (1Cor.4:1).

Show me your faith

For Christians, the love of God and of the neighbour must the basis of mercy. Saint Pope John Paul the great once said that no one is so poor as to have nothing to give and no one so rich as to need nothing at all. Even the least endowed Christian can enrich the Year of Mercy by simply obeying the 10 commandments and the traditional injunctions for Christian living. The injunctions are the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy which many Christians have sadly long abandoned. The corporal works of mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead (Matt. 25). The spiritual works of mercy are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted and pray for the living
and the dead. These guidelines, diligently followed, guarantee the sanctification of the person and the salvation of his soul.

The World Aids Day

Perhaps then the proximity of the World Aids Day on December 1 each year, to the beginning of the Year of Mercy has some symbolic lessons to teach. It is another clarion call to respond to the yearning for mercy on our streets, in our neighbourhood and homes without discriminating.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said "We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer". What do we do, each of us to lighten the burden of the sick, the handicapped, the prisoners, the oppressed etc. among us? The apostle James left us the unforgettable teaching which has been quoted innumerable times by faith teachers. "Say to whoever challenges you. 'You have faith and I have good deed; show me your faith and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act'" (Jas. 2:18). It is a call that all must heed in order to heal this wounded world.