Thursday, May 19, 2016

Be a Conduit of Mercy

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.  Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.  Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Indeed, we call blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  (James 5:9-11)

Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.  (Psalm 103:8)

Remember that we all stand forever in need of mercy.

There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who converts than over ninety-nine righteous persons.  Does God love sinners more than the righteous?  There are no righteous persons.  It’s rather that we feel God’s love more when we admit that we’re sinners.  None of us ever measure up.  But, as St. Paul so consolingly teaches, the whole point is that we don’t have to measure up.  That’s what mercy means.  It’s undeserved by definition.

Remember that, having received mercy, we must show mercy to others.
(Ron Rolheiser, OMI, from The Ten Commandments of Mercy, May 9, 2016)

Last week we finished the Easter season and now we’re back in ordinary time.  In the last few months, we’ve been through the events of Holy Week, Easter Sunday, the Ascension and, last Sunday, Pentecost.  Now we have before us a stretch of time unbroken by such momentous occasions.

That’s what James’ original audience was facing, too - a long stretch of “ordinary” time.  The intended audience, Jewish Christians who had fled Jerusalem and its immediate surroundings in the face of persecution, was awaiting the return of Christ in glory, but the months and years were going by without that happening.

The writer, in a style more reminiscent of wisdom literature than similar to other New Testament letters, advises patience and perseverance.  Don’t be discouraged by the wait.  Don’t let the fear of persecution throw you off track.  The thing to do is to live what you’ve learned in Christ.

In particular, in today’s verses, we are reminded of the compassion and mercy of God.  When you have been the recipient of such grace, don’t turn around and complain about others and pick out all their faults.  Instead, share with them what God has bestowed upon you – understanding, forgiveness, and the chance to begin anew.

It would be well worth your time to read the entire text of Ron Rolheiser’s The Ten Commandments of Mercy.   Then try remembering some of the times in your life that you have been on the receiving end of God’s compassion.  Finally, reflect on how you’ve treated others – family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, fellow Metro passengers, etc.  Do you think they would describe you as gracious, “slow to anger and abounding in kindness?”

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