Mercy flows from response-ability; the ability to respond.
This story illustrates how we are intrinsically hardwired to respond to each other:
Once there was an elderly couple who delighted in the little boy who lived across the street. They loved his daily visits to play on the tire swing they had put up for their grandchildren who were now grown and far way.
Suddenly, the elderly woman died. With all the commotion that followed, the boy couldn’t visit for many days. His mom was unsure if he understood when she tried to explain what has transpired. A few days after the funeral, the boy saw the man sitting alone on his porch swing. He shouted to his mom (for he never whispered), “Papa Joe is outside. Can I go play with him?” Despite her misgivings, the mom said yes and the boy dashed out the door.
A short time later, the mother looked out her window to check on her rambunctious little boy but he was not on the tire swing. Instead he was snuggled up to the old man rocking slowly on the porch swing. Their heads were almost touching as if the man was telling the boy a story.
When the boy finally returned home, his mom was curious, “What were you and Papa Joe talking about?” The little boy replied, “Oh nothing. I just helped him cry,” before scampering off to play.
The little boy had put aside his natural energetic disposition in favor of the quiet presence required to meet the old man’s need.
When we feel responsible, we can hear the cry of the poor, the elderly, the dispossessed, and even the cry of the earth. When we respond to that cry, we become the hands-heart-face of “God as mother/father” who seeks to comfort and heal (physically, emotionally, spiritually).
“In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy …God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In [the parables] we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation…” Pope Francis, from Misericordiae Vultus
The parables show a Creator who always understands our missteps, fears, and imperfections yet still delights in us.
Our ability to respond with mercy flows from seeing the other as innately valuable and worthy of our attention or forgiveness.
As innately valuable and worthy, we are all deserving of merciful forgiveness and compassionate actions that relieve suffering. None of us can respond to every need but all of us can respond to something.
So we ask ourselves today:
- Is there someone who needs my consolation, my understanding, my love? Can I see God in that?
- Did I look for and see the face of God in others, accepting God’s love from them? Was I able to be the face of God for others? Did I miss an opportunity to love today?
May we always trust God enough to be response-able, giving freely of ourselves without expectation of something in return. And may we experience the joy that is borne from acting with mercy and compassion.