Posted on: 2016-11-08

Mercy in action

One of the Biblical quotations for which the letter of Saint James is well known is about making our faith evident in our work. “Show me your faith …” (Jam 2). The power of those words applies to our entire Christian life. We can all agree that the quality of Christian presence and ministry in Nigeria today can be measured by the acts and the attitude of mercy in our daily life, in our homes on our streets and even in our conversations. Mercy is a function of love such that if we love humanity or nature, traits of mercy will easily reflect in how we relate to these. God led the way in that fact. He so loved the world that he gave us his only son who came to save us while we were not even deserving of it. (Jn. 3:16, Rom 5) That is what mercy is like. It must be reflected in concrete action to be credible. The Church cherishes that fact and urges Christians to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They are very practical steps for daily living translating mercy from theory to practice.

Our violent society

For many reasons the Nigerian society today is becoming increasingly violent and inhuman. The inhospitable economic environment all over the world has provoked a general atmosphere of frustration, egoism and hostility to outsiders of every kind. Even politicians all over the world exploit the base instincts in human nature to promote a “we-against-them” mentality for all kinds of selfish interests. The escalation of destructive mob activity like arson, lynching, vandalism, rape and outright assassinations in our country must be a cause for concern for Christians in Nigeria. Really, the government and security agencies are primarily responsible for the protection of life and property, Christians however cannot fail to speak against the violent trend that is fast becoming a daily occurrence.  Every form of violence begins from the heart and conscience. It is therefore also the responsibility of families, especially Christian ones, to form the character and consciences of their children according to the demands of mercy for the benefit of society.

The cultural imperative of mercy

Colonial rhetoric may have often depicted African cultures as essentially violent through the isolation of certain ugly practices among various peoples. African culture however has as much compassion content as any culture anywhere in the world. The old educational book for children in Yoruba “Alawiye” had abundant evidence of the place of mercy in Nigeria. The old folk tale told by the author, Sir J.F Odunjo, goes thus: “The tortoise and the snail once lived as friends and farmers in the same village. At a certain point the snail began to steal from the tortoise's farm.  The tortoise set a trap for him, caught him and tied him to a tree as punishment. Passers-by, on their way to their farms in the morning, saw the snail and got to know the story. They condemned and castigated the offender for his shameless act. But when by evening, returning from their farms, they found the snail still tied to the tree, they changed their music. They began to blame the tortoise for being wicked and unforgiving of an offender who, in any case, was his friend”. A story like this does drive home the lesson about the central role of mercy to life, a virtue so important for community in Africa.

Follow the prayer

All said and done our temperature for mercy must not drop. In this Jubilee year let us continue to act and pray the beautiful Prayer of the Missionary of Mercy by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalaska. It is bound to keep our mercy temperature high:

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes of your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor. Help me, O Lord that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s soul and come to their rescue. Help me, that my ears may be merciful so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moaning. Help me, O Lord that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all. Help me, O Lord that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me. You yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The First: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The Second: the word of mercy – if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer – if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O My Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things.