This week’s post is written by my friend and colleague, Rob Tasman. Rob is the Executive Director of The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he combines his passions for faith and the law. He is someone who models living an authentic life of faith in his roles as husband, father, and lay minister. Rob always challenges me to grow deeper in my faith, and I know he will do the same for you. Please join me in welcoming Rob to our community!
A song of mercy:
Music is indeed a heavenly gift and the lyrics below seem to poignantly frame God’s continual call to us through mercy, as well as God’s invitation for us to take part in the works of mercy.
“Bring your tired
Bring your shame
Bring your guilt
Bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not your name
You will always be much more to me…”
Mercy: The act by which God comes to meet us
While traveling through many theological circles throughout the past, I was always struck by a vision that was shared with me of what our final judgement might actually look like. This person of wisdom suggested that WE would be more than likely the one calling out to God all of those times that we fell short and sinned. Conversely, God would stand before us and recall those times that we in fact followed “The Way”.
In many respects to use legal imagery, we would be the prosecutor of our own failings while God acted as our defense attorney. What a powerful image highlighting God’s mercy, as well as providing us with a window through which we can begin to understand how God comes to meet us. As Pope Francis states in Misericordiae Vultus, “Mercy: The ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.”
God’s love for us:
Answering God’s call of mercy, and doing so in an active way where we take part in the works of mercy, is an obligation for any faithful believer. It is the way in which we acknowledge God’s mercy toward us, God’s tangible love for us. God’s intention for each of us is never to merely survive, but rather to thrive – this is directly rooted in God’s love for us.
We must attempt to wrap our head around Agape, that undeserved, unearned, unconditional love that can truly only be attributed to the love that God has for all of us as being imago dei. Mercy is bound in Agape as it is through mercy that God reveals God’s love as that of a mother/father figure. St. Augustine states that, “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy,” and isn’t this true of any parent who loves their own creation – their child? It is a guttural and deep unending love provided free of restrictions.
What is our role?
How then do we take part in the works of mercy? I would humbly suggest that we begin with living a life rooted in compassion. Pope Francis clearly reveals the link between compassion and mercy both in “The Face of Mercy,” as well as “The Joy of the Gospel.” Whereas judgement must be overcome with mercy, conflict must be combatted with compassion!
Compassion allows us to build communion while seeing others in their truest dignity. Mercy enables us to work together to build a bright future, a future that greater resembles the Kingdom of God here on Earth. This is our command! Put another way, mercy moves us toward understanding while compassion opens the door to dialogue. Dialogue should naturally advance us toward solutions and ultimately joy.
This is therefore why mercy is so critically important… As St. John of the Cross offers, “As we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love.” Articulated in another way, a former theology professor of mine defined sin as – THE FAILURE TO BOTHER TO LOVE.
Mercy enables us to love, to love in a way that perhaps most closely resembles Agape. Just as is the case with any aspect of our relationship with our Great and Ever Loving God, we must SIMPLY respond! “Only say the WORD and my soul shall be healed…”
Want to go deeper?
- 1 John 4: 7-8 (Agape)
- 1 John 4: 19-21 (Agape)
- Psalm 118: 1-4 (Mercy)
- 2 Corinthians: 1-4 (Compassion)