Pope Francis has just declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year: a Year of Mercy, which will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this year. We have witnessed and been fascinated by this pope’s numerous acts of mercy as he reaches out to the neediest of God’s people. Of course, the greatest act of mercy is what we remember and celebrate during this Lenten season: how God reached out to us, his creatures sunk in misery because of sin, and gave us new hope. The death and rising of the Son of God saved us. We usually associate mercy with the corporal (bodily) acts of mercy, such as feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. But here are some other ways to be merciful.
1. Have mercy on ourselves. When we make a mistake, we regret it. Our self-esteem shrivels and we feel bad. Sometimes we keep flogging ourselves for our wrongdoing. Dwelling on it casts a black cloud over our days and can even make us ill. Mercy relieves suffering. The Christian thing to do is to forgive ourselves and forget it. As song in the movie Frozen urges, “Let it go!” After all, God forgives us. We can also be merciful to ourselves by not being over-demanding. When faced with a decision like whether to take a day off, indulge in a snack, or go to a movie, we might imagine that a friend is in our position: What would we advise him or her?
2. Stop habits that annoy others. I suppose it’s only human to do things that irk others, especially those with whom we live. Maybe we crack our knuckles, leave dishes in the sink, or drive too fast. These habits raise others’ blood pressure or at least make them uncomfortable. We can have mercy on them by changing our ways, if it’s only when we’re in their presence!
3. Avoid saying “I told you so.” We disagree on many occasions. We might say that the party is on Friday, and another person might insist that it is on Saturday. When there’s been a disagreement and we’ve been proved right, it’s tempting to say “I told you so” and gloat. Likewise, we might predict that something will happen if the other person acts in a certain way. (How often parents say things like, “Stop running. Someone’s going to get hurt” and then someone is.) The other person is unhappy to be wrong to begin with, so rubbing it in is like putting salt in their wounds.
4. Offer help. When someone is in a pickle or is need of a helping hand, it’s an act of mercy to assist them. Recall how grateful you were when someone changed a flat tire for you or gave you advice for a project you had undertaken. It’s an act of mercy to take time to help someone even if you get nothing in return except the warm feeling that comes from doing a kind deed.
5. Don’t bring up old failings. When someone has done something wrong, avoid reminding him or her of it over and over. All but one of the apostles deserted Jesus when he was arrested, but when he appeared to them as the risen Lord, he didn’t bring this up. He just said, “Peace,” even to Peter.
Can you add other ways we can be merciful just as our Father has been merciful to us?