By Cliff Garvey
Not long ago, my best friend and I argued about something stupid and trivial. The quarrel lasted too long. Neither of us gave an inch. We dug in. We clung to our positions like dogs with bones. We said things that should not be said. By the time it was over, we had more or less forgotten the reason for our argument. But for several days, it created some stress and tension. Eventually, we apologized, made amends, and all is now well between us.
This incident prompted me to think and pray about what it means to forgive and what it means to be merciful. Ever the student, I turned to a good dictionary and discovered that mercy means compassion, forgiveness, leniency, and a real willingness to let it go. Mercy means that whenever we can, we should feel and express sympathy for another person. We should surrender all anger, hostility, and resentment toward every friend and family member, every colleague and fellow commuter, every neighbor and fellow parishioner. We should forgive every flaw, every mistake, every shortcoming, and every perceived offense.
Mercy is akin to gratitude, generosity, humility, sympathy, and tolerance. It is never angry, never cruel, never conniving, and never dishonest. Mercy never complains or gossips. It never holds a grudge. Instead, mercy liberates. It is like a spring shower that melts away the dirty remains of the winter snow. It is like a sea breeze that clears the air. It is like bright sunshine that warms the heart and soul. Mercy breathes life into old friendships and tired family relationships. It is enduring, timeless, and powerful. Mercy is born in scripture. It is heaven-sent. It is the work of angels and saints. And mercy is the calling of sinners like us.
One day, history will remember Pope Francis as an apostle of mercy. He seems to understand better than most people that mercy is not an abstract concept to be studied by philosophers and theologians. Mercy is a way of life. The Holy Father writes this about God’s mercy for all people: “Mercy is dynamic, not so much as a noun with a fixed and definite meaning, nor as an adjective, but instead as a verb — to show mercy and to receive mercy — that spurs us to action in this world. In addition, God’s mercy is ever greater; it is a mercy that grows and expands, passing from good to better, from less to more. Jesus sets before us the model of mercy who is God the Father, who is ever greater, and whose infinite mercy in some sense constantly grows. God’s mercy has no roof and it has no walls.”
Think about that. Pray about that. God’s mercy is boundless, dynamic, ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-ready to forgive any fault, any failing, any crime, any sin, and any shortcoming. And mercy is not just about the Lord’s active and ongoing love for his children. Jesus beckons us to share this love and mercy; to preach it and live it with every thought, word, and deed. Jesus calls us to be merciful and forgiving; to be peacemakers in an increasingly bitter and troubled world.
Jesus summons us to offer ourselves to the work of divine mercy. He expects our hearts to grow and expand and stretch with mercy, just as his divine mercy grows and stretches and expands to embrace every person, in every culture, in every country all around the world.
It is an ugly thing when friends argue. It is a beautiful thing when friends shake hands, laugh at their stubbornness, and share God’s mercy with each other. It is a movement of grace when we realize in our hearts, at the core of our being, that we are all bruised and broken; that we all need to forgive someone; that we all need forgiveness ourselves.
Pope Francis says: “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” During this season of new life, we pray for the courage to bring God’s big, bold, and bountiful gift of mercy in our homes, communities, neighborhoods, parishes, and workplaces. We pray that mercy finds new life in our divided country, our wounded church, and our suffering world. And we pray for the divine mercy that reveals itself in the life, death, and resurrection of our merciful redeemer, friend, and brother:
O Jesus, you died,
but the source of life
flowed out for souls;
and the ocean of mercy
opened up for the whole world.
O Fountain of Life,
immeasurable Divine Mercy,
cover the whole world
and empty yourself out upon us.
O Blood and Water,
which flowed out from the heart of Jesus,
as a Fountain of Mercy for us,
we trust in you!
Holy God, Holy Mighty One,
Holy Immortal One,
have mercy on us and on the whole world!
Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Living Mercy, Parts 1 & 2. The Assisi Project Podcast is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (see links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
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