Mercy. What is mercy? A quick definition may not come quickly to mind. However, we know of mercy in experiencing its absence.
Recent news reports about the Syrian conflict and the deliberate bombing of hospitals, the starving of besieged civilians, the terrified Rohingya who fled Burma, are just two examples of the heartlessness when mercy has been lost sight of, or seen as weakness.
Mercy is integral to our capacity for extending forgiveness and is perhaps the full expression of forgiveness.
There is the story of the woman who once approached Napoleon Bonaparte. The woman appealed to Napoleon for him to grant mercy to her son. He had been found guilty of crimes, and had been sentenced to death.
Napoleon studied the trial evidence, and said the man was obviously guilty and deserving of his punishment. In reply the woman said, “Yes, I know he is guilty. That is why I am asking you to grant him mercy”. It is said Napoleon commuted the sentence.
Mercy. Something extended to another, or others, from the depths of one’s heart. It is inseparable from forgiveness. Consider the following prayer. It was found on a scrap of paper inside the Ravensbruck Concentration camp at the end of the second world war.
“Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will.
Do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us.
Remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering... our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this .
And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.”
(at Ravensbruck, where 92,000 women and children perished).
The above is an extraordinary prayer of mercy prayed for the perpetrators. Good Friday is a called “Good” because it reveals the fullness of God’s mercy for humanity, in Christ.
The dying prayer of Jesus to the Heavenly Father was a prayer prayed for all humanity... for us all. It is a prayer from a heart full of mercy.
“Divine love in a human heart” are words of an old hymn which celebrate the declaration at the beginning of Johns Gospel, that in Christ, the divine Word of God has become flesh amongst us.
Eastertime is the hope-filled annual Christian celebration of Gods redeeming love for all in Christ.
Father Kevin Corrigan
Parish priest of St Michael's Nelson Bay