God delights in mercy, and so should we

Mercy is the face of God and the heart of Christ’s Gospel. Through Jesus, God in his mercy comes to seek out the lost and to save them. And he rejoices when he finds them. — Credit: MIKE NELSON/CATHEDRAL MAUSOLEUM

The basic questions we face in our lives are all about how we should live.

What should we value and what should our priorities be? What should concern us and what should we be living for?

The Beatitudes are the answer that Jesus gives us to these basic questions. In the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel, he is telling us what kind of people we should be. The answer is that we should live as he lived.

At the center of his Beatitudes, the fifth of the eight that he gives us, we find this: “Blessed are the merciful.”

Mercy is like the “hinge” that opens the door to the beautiful mystery of who God is calling us to be.

The Beatitudes not only describe, they command. The Beatitudes are the attitudes and actions that Jesus expects, if we want to call ourselves Christians.

So mercy is our “work,” our daily task. Mercy is our faith working through love.

Mercy in practice means having compassion for everyone, and in a special way for those Jesus identified with — the poor, the sick, the prisoner and the stranger. Mercy means serving others with love — with our hearts always open to their needs, their hurts, and their longings.

The merciful one seeks to free others from their misery — whether their misery is caused by cruelty, misfortune, social injustice, or their own sin and weakness.

Mercy makes us brothers and sisters to everyone and neighbors to those in need. That’s the lesson of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

And again and again in the Gospels, Jesus teaches that the mercy we seek from God must be the mercy we show to others.

He doesn’t mean that God’s mercy is a “reward” for our mercy. He’s not saying that our mercy “requires” or obligates God to show us mercy.

St. James said mercy triumphs over judgment. That’s what Jesus is talking about. We love because he first loved us. And we have mercy because he first had mercy on us.

We are unworthy servants, Jesus tells us. But God in his love shows us mercy. When we fall, he is there to lift us up, to put us back on the right path. Our God is the God of second chances and new beginnings.

Mercy is the way of God, who is the Father of mercies. So mercy must be our way as the children of God. And mercy must be the way for the Church.

In Jesus, we see that God’s mercy is “missionary.”

Think of his life and mission, which he described in his beautiful parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal Son: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

Mercy is the face of God and the heart of Christ’s Gospel. Through Jesus, God in his mercy comes to seek out the lost and to save them. And he rejoices when he finds them.

Jesus calls us to be merciful on earth as our Father in heaven is merciful.

Mercy starts in the heart and is practiced in deeds. In acts of kindness — and especially acts of forgiveness. God delights in mercy, and so should we. God loves to forgive us, so we should love to forgive others.

Every day we have many chances to forgive the wrongs that others do to us. When we forgive others, we’re not forgetting their sins. Mercy never excuses injustice.

When we forgive others, we trust that judgment belongs to God and that God’s love for sinners is stronger than their sin. When we are merciful, we love with the freedom of those who have known God’s forgiveness. When we are merciful, we refuse to submit to injustice but rather fight it with truth and love.

God never turns sinners away, and neither can we. We need to reach out to them, take responsibility for them and accompany them. We need to always be finding new ways to bring people back to God — especially those closest to us.

Our mercy should be gracious, not grudging; our first reaction, not our last resort. This is a lesson for each of us in our own lives and ministries. And this is a lesson for the Church.

So this week, as we cross the halfway point in our Lenten journey, let us pray for one another. That we might all become the people God wants us to be, people of the Beatitudes.

And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of Mercy, to help us grow in mercy.

 

Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

Events

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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