This week, we continue delving into the question, “What is Mercy?” by looking at mercy through God’s dwelling within us and within our world. Our author this week is Mary Mahaffey, who is a not only a dear friend of mine, but a behind the scenes collaborator in my ministry work. In a nutshell, she helps make content I write look better with her gift of graphic design (Check out her graphics with quotes she created for me on Instagram or Facebook!). Mary is a pastoral minister with over 13 years of ministry experience. This week, she begins her training to be a spiritual companion. Below is her reflection on God’s dwelling in her and in our world. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming, Mary as a contributor to our series!
A Subtle Detail: The Paralyzed Man
In chapter two of the Gospel of Mark, we hear the healing story of a paralytic man whose friends overcame several obstacles to place the man before Jesus. In this story, Jesus, surrounded by many who had come to hear him preach, used the message of mercy to heal the paralyzed man. “Your sins are forgiven,” he says to the man, and when further questioned by the scribes who witnessed this exchange, Jesus explains, “the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”. As the man rose, picked up his mat and went away, the astonishment of those present is shared with us now, as we witness this healing. This passage offers a subtle detail which enriched the man’s profound encounter with mercy.
Home, a dwelling place:
The author of this Gospel mentions that Jesus returned home to Capernaum. Home, a dwelling place, is a place of comfort and security for me. I imagine home was also a place of comfort and security for Jesus. His place to rest, to find peace, and to seek comfort. In his home, he is surrounded by many who had come to believe in him as the Son of Man, and they gathered to listen to him, watch him, and learn from him. We, too, watch, as Jesus recognizes the faith of the paralyzed man, as well as the faith of his friends, who knew that Jesus had the power to save. It seems they recognized the dwelling of God within Jesus, and Jesus recognized God’s dwelling within them. This encounter with mercy in the Gospel invited me to turn back to reflect on my life.
Examining God’s dwelling:
I wondered, “Where might I find mercy dwelling in my own life?” First, I looked within my heart, the place my healer, God, dwells. I found that it is in receiving God’s mercy, forgiveness, and compassion, that this dwelling place feels full. Next, I turned my examination outward to the world in which I live and the people by whom I am surrounded. In doing so, I searched for moments in which I extended mercy to others and moments where others extended mercy to me. In these moments, I realize, my heart also felt complete fullness. I was surprised at how easy it was to name God dwelling within me and within others as I reflected on the kindness, compassion and love God showed me within myself and through others; I named profound moments of mercy as well as smaller more ordinary moments in which mercy has been exchanged.
God’s mercy endures:
I turned my search to the heavens, to the Son of Man, seeking a deeper understanding of God dwelling in our world today. With the eyes of my heart turned to him, I recognized the dwelling place of mercy that transcends the time and place of the present moment. God was present in the exchange between Jesus and the paralyzed man, and God is still present dwelling within our world and within me, today.
I must allow my heart to be surrounded by faith in order for mercy to continue to inhabit within me. One of the ways, I can do this is by surrounding myself with others who share my experience of mercy, as well as those who may question my faith. Both give me a deeper understanding of Jesus and how he heals me from within, how he heals my brokenness, how he forgives my sins, and how he fills me with his love. God does this for both you and me, and then God turns us back to the world and invites us to give witness to this exchange of mercy.
Why does Mercy Matter?
Mercy matters because God dwells in each of us, even if we are broken, wounded, and hurt by the choices we make. Mercy matters because God is dwelling in our world, and we are not alone, and God is continually healing us, the way Jesus healed the paralyzed man.
Next week, we will look at how mercy endures through God’s revelation.
Want to go deeper?
Return home to God. Surround yourself by those who have faith. Receive God’s mercy. Return this mercy to others. Dwell in the encounter with mercy.
A few passages to help: