Our conference theme is “Show, Know Mercy”. But what does ‘mercy’ mean? Do you know what ‘mercy’ means?
I didn’t either, so I consulted Google, which gives us three definitions:
1. “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm”
2. “An event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering”
3. It is “performed out of a desire to relieve suffering motivated by compassion”
Simple, right? Mercy works two ways: first you can show mercy to someone by choosing to have compassion for them or forgiving them, when you could hurt them – like forgiving someone who hurt you, instead of gossiping about them. Second, you can receive mercy when someone forgives you or shows compassion and relieves some sort of suffering – like your teacher lets your rewrite a test you did really badly on. In order for these to be acts of mercy they need to be done with the intention to stop another’s suffering.
But these definitions don’t say anything about God; what does mercy have to do with our faith? Lots actually! Psalm 136 tells us over and over (and over and over – seriously, look it up), that the Father is merciful. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the disciples (and us) to be merciful like the Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can ask God for mercy when we are suffering (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Because God is merciful, he will show us compassion and mercy, even though we sin and make mistakes. God is love, and loves us more than we can imagine – of course He doesn’t want to see us suffer. But we can only seek God’s forgiveness, compassion and mercy because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, as Jesus reminds us, it is not enough for us to simply seek God’s mercy for ourselves, or even to be grateful when we receive God’s mercy, we have to be merciful and forgive others, because God has forgiven us (Luke 6:36).
Showing mercy towards others can be difficult, especially if they have hurt us, this is why we need to ask for God to help us be merciful towards others. By understanding what mercy is, forgiving and showing compassion towards another, can help us to better understand how we can be merciful to others.
Lauren is the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Resurrection Parish. Regina is the latest stop on her multi, cross-Canada tour. Before this she lived in Toronto while working on her Masters, and in PEI, where she was born. An avid fan of all things Daschund (wiener dogs) and words, her favourite place is curled under a blanket with a dog (or two) and a book or her latest writing project. She blogs over at Letters to the Pope.