Downward Ascent 5: Heart of God
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.’ (Matt. 5:7)
Mercy is the heart of God. Fittingly, mercy is the core theme of the Beatitudes: the poor, the mournful, the meek and hungry welcome mercy like rain on broken dry ground. Jesus then exhorts such receivers to extend that unfailing love to those who fail them.
No easy thing. To look with pity on the poor ‘out there’ and to give something of God’s generosity is one thing; to release captives who have captivated you with merciless acts is quite another. Several past Lenten seasons have been defined by facing some pretty hard hits I had taken from loved ones, especially family members and close ministry colleagues. Those nearest to us do the greatest damage, arouse the strongest self-justifications, and require the most mercy in order for all to heal.
Lent exposes the merciless heart of the ‘good guys.’ It challenges our good habits and fairly intact virtues. Forty days before the Crucified helps us to see how wounded we are and in turn, how hard our hearts have become toward those who betrayed us.
My hatred for a loved one’s addiction devolved into hating him and refusing to see him as an object of mercy. To release him seemed unwise, a set up for another round of secrets and lies. Yet setting boundaries and obeying this Beatitude are not mutually exclusive. It may be unwise to share your funds or bed or even close proximity to a divided soul. Extending mercy is a divine mandate.
How can I not forgive another and yet claim to be named by the God who forgave me over and over for gross acts of sexual immorality with no guarantee that this confession would be the last? To bear the name of our God means that we act as He does—mercifully. Jesus said it simply, and best. ‘Be merciful as Your Father is merciful.’ (LK 6:36)
This Lent take time to reflect on how merciful He has been to you. Consider your failures and how both a merciful God and His children forgave you. Consider also those whom you have written off, judged as unworthy of your mercy. Ask yourself: why is your mercy different from His? Spend time before the Crucified and ask for the mercy to close the gap. Be merciful. Be like your Father.
‘Anyone who lives beneath the Cross of Christ and who has discerned in his own heart the wickedness of all men, including himself, will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
PRAYER for Monday, March 24th: ‘Father, remind me of the specific ways You have been merciful to me.’
PRAYER for Tuesday, March 25th: Meditate on these words of St. Faustina. ‘The knowledge of my own misery allows me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ Is that true for you? How has the misery of your own sin become the broken ground for His immense mercy? ‘Father, remind me of how Your mercy alone restored me from sin’s misery.’
PRAYER for Wednesday, March 26th: ‘Father, show me the misery that other persons’ sins has visited upon me. Why do I struggle to face these sins? Brood over my wounded heart and show me the immensity of Your mercy there.’
PRAYER for Thursday, March 27th: ‘Father, as I am Your child, made in Your image and likeness, I choose to release this one for forcing me into sin’s misery. You have been merciful to me; I extend that mercy to this one.‘
PRAYER for Friday, March 28th: ‘Father, show me the wise boundaries that will enable me to love this person without being entrapped in the snare of his/her sin. May I see this as both a loving act toward myself and a further help for him/her in making a thorough repentance.’
PRAYER for Saturday, March 29th: ‘Father, help me to see all persons as You do, sons and daughters made in Your image. Help me to see beyond my own concerns to behold a harassed people and in need of You, our merciful Father.’
PRAYER for Sunday, March 30th: ‘Father, make this church a home for sinners. May You the Merciful Shepherd use all of us as little shepherds to bring sinners home to You. Draw them with Your mercy God, mercy alone. Make me an arm of Your wooing love. In particular, I cry out for these wayward ones: ___________ ’