Blessed Are the Merciful
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” We all need to understand better these familiar and challenging words that Jesus preached on the mountainside. A wise preacher told his congregation that “…we all need the medicine of mercy and we all also need to learn how to administer it to our fellow travelers.” Jesus directed his followers as he commissions us to pattern our lives after the example of our merciful and loving God. Chrysostom, an early church leader, tells us that “Mercy imitates God.”
The best way to understand this beatitude of mercy is to look at an example of it in action. Mercy is an attitude that prompts us to do something. It is love-acting that reaches out to help those who are helpless in some way. First of all, we might ask ourselves: How does this beatitude unfold in the daily happenings of any true Christian? What does mercy look like in someone’s life, and more specifically, in my life? Luke has answered this question by giving us the parable of the Good Samaritan – a familiar story that provides us with a great example of mercy in action. A Samaritan, a definite enemy of the Jewish people, is on the road and fell into the hands of robbers. The priest, Levite and the Samaritan all saw this wounded man, but only one — the Samaritan — perceived him as a person he had the responsibility and the courage to help. If we seek, like him, to embrace this beatitude we will receive a heightened sense of God’s lesson given here and better understand the importance and necessity of noticing and helping the lonely and destitute people around us, the grieving people, those who are hurting and people who need help and guidance. But, often, our busy-ness blinds us to the needs. How often the people next door to us are like strangers because we never allow ourselves to be interested in their lives. We don’t allow ourselves to become sensitive to God’s leading us to the needs. We don’t make it our business nor our responsibility to see and hear the cries of those around us.
Erma Bombeck shared an interesting story about a time when she was waiting for a flight in an airport. She was reading a book in an effort to shut out the commotion around her. Here is her story:
A voice next to me belonging to an elderly woman said, “I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.” Stone-faced I replied, “Its’s likely.” “I haven’t been to Chicago in three years,” the woman persisted. “My son lives there” “That’s nice,” I said, my eyes intent on my book, a bit irritated at her disturbance. After a few quiet moments, the woman said, “My husband’s body in on this plane. We’ve been married 53 years.” Bombeck continues — I think I never detested myself more than I did at that moment. Another human being was screaming to be heard, and in her desperation I had turned into a cold stranger who was more interested in a novel than in the real-life heart-wrenching drama at my elbow. We boarded the plane and she found her seat in another section. As I hung up my coat, I heard her plaintive voice say to her seat companion, “I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.”
I have read that the Hebrew word for mercy is chesedh which means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his or her eyes, think things with his or her mind and feel things with his or her feelings. What a beautiful description! Someone put it this way: “Mercy begins when your hurt comes into my heart.”
Finally, a merciful person goes beyond just listening and acts in an effort to relieve the distress. Mercy is love in action! It involves interrupting our personal schedule, expending our money, giving food, sharing love, providing company, whatever the need – excluding no one. In other words, it is not a spectator sport. We will find that the more we receive, the more we can give. The more we realize the many opportunities God gives to us to share his mercy with others and the more we appreciate how merciful God has been to us, the more merciful we can and will be to others. An anonymous author is quoted as referring to the words from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice where Portia says, “The quality of mercy is not strained. It drops as the gentle rain from heaven upon the earth below, and is twice blessed. It blesses the person who gives and the person that takes.” This author says, “Sounds like Shakespeare has been reading the Beatitudes!” That’s what Jesus meant when he said, ”Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”
Mercy is a portrayal of what Jesus did on our behalf. He “got inside our skin” and became like us, participated in our human life and sufferings to the point that he died on the cross for us. So, first of all, let us be more sensitive to our own experiences of God’s mercy. Secondly, let that knowledge and the memory of those experiences motivate us to imitate Jesus until we become truly merciful people. Thirdly, pray for guidance to know when and how to always be open to respond readily, lovingly and mercifully on that grace.
July 16, 2019
Sister Lauretta Leipzig