Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
How Are We Doing? What You May Not Know About Mercy
Awhile back I had written an essay called The Reed of the Church”(ForthWrite, 12/4/2007) which was about the virtue and exercise of Christ-directed compassion and how that defined the health of the church. It seems that tough economic times are probably the most attention-getting of all the hardships of life when it comes to testing and measuring the quality of our faith. And Faith-testing always involves the necessary quality-indicator of mercy. As Shakespeare once wrote in his very famous play The Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strained.” Is our mercy being strained during lean times? If so, it’s interesting how money and mercy and faith seem to be connected, isn’t it?
So what do these times say about us? Some of you may be experiencing very little but a “rub” of cut back on your economies of life. While some of us may be experiencing financially terrifying times that make us feel like the Prophet Elijah right after his victory at Mt. Carmel (1Kings 18:34-37) He was so scared and depressed he ran way and asked the Lord to take his life. But God fed him through a miracle of mercy and instructed him to rest. (1Kings 19:5-9) God had a purpose for Elijah and right then it was to rest. What he had been through for the Lord before that had been too much for him. So God was merciful.
Are we doing the same? Are we learning to recognize the purpose of the Lord in others and working with the Holy Spirit to minister to our spiritual family members when they are in need of mercy? It is the mercy of our Bridegroom, Christ, that keeps any of us going from day to day. Are we growing in beauty under His mercy daily? How are we doing? Let’s take a look together.
In the rush of our world, in its dependence on technology, its leaning to pluralism, its settling for relativism, one can sometimes be tempted to think mercy is not all that anymore. We can begin to relegate mercy to one corner of our understanding. Then the word can begin to lose its fullness and power and original meaning. This was brought to my attention never more forcefully than when I took a serious look at how the Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians defined mercy.
In the writings of this prayer book, the importance of Mercy is underscored by the fact that it is divided into two categories of qualities, both spiritual acts and physical acts. The impact upon the mind and heart is nothing short of amazing when reading aloud all that this one small word actually means:
THE CHIEF SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY
1. To admonish sinners (easy to forget this one is not out of making someone feel bad but actually a gift of love)
2. To instruct the ignorant (Are we doing this everyday?)
3. To counsel the doubtful
4. To comfort the sorrowful
5. To suffer wrongs patiently
6. To forgive injuries
7. To pray for the living and the dead
THE CHIEF [PHYSICAL] WORKS OF MERCY
1. To feed the hungry (no qualifications here)
2. To give drink to the thirsty (no qualifications here)
3. To cloth the naked (how would you want to be clothed?)
4. To ransom captives (Is someone in trouble? Would you sell all that you have to get them released, from oppressive debt? from wrongful prison? from unforeseen circumstance?)
5. To shelter the homeless
6. To visit the sick (Do you know of those who don’t complain?)
7. To bury the dead (Are you willing to forgo repayment?)
I’ll admit that I had been one to pigeonhole the definition of Mercy into only a couple of applications from the above list. Perhaps you may be one like me for whom the times have been the “Instructor” that God often uses to get our attention. If so, then we can both be assured that something important and good and beautifying is happening.
Let’s make sure then that we are alert to the way God works through what seems to be a bad thing and start drawing from it, the lessons of preparation our Bridegroom, Christ” is giving us. It’s one of our first of many “beautifying” treatments we can hope to receive. So let’s make the most of it and see that the “quality of our mercy towards each other never becomes strained”, but is exercised with the comforting and compassionate hands of a “Bride” who grows in beauty before her King as His coming draws near.
Till next time.
God bless you. M. S. Reed, 2008, Dilseacht, le gra go deo