Thursday, June 14, 2018

“See and Act with Mercy” by Beth DeCristofaro

“See and Act with Mercy” by Beth DeCristofaro

…Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, crouched down to the earth, and put his head between his knees. "Climb up and look out to sea," he directed his servant, who went up and looked, but reported, "There is nothing."
Seven times he said, "Go, look again!" And the seventh time the youth reported, "There is a cloud as small as a man's hand rising from the sea." Elijah said, "Go and say to Ahab, 'Harness up and leave the mountain before the rain stops you.'" In a trice, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and a heavy rain fell.
(1 Kings 18:42-45)

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment … (Matthew 5:20-22)

May the God of justice lead us from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, and from hate to love, through Christ, the paschal lamb.  Amen
        (Morning Prayer)

Elijah’s prayer which ended the drought in 1 Kings and proved the authentic authority of God to Ahab is, in my reading, an example of faith the size of a mustard seed moving mountains…or in this case moving the sea to become life-giving rain.  And faith the size of a mustard seed is very much needed for me as I read Jesus’ words in the Gospel.  Swallow my anger, forgive my brother/sister, be more righteous than the righteous?  I fall to the sin of self-righteousness and judgment so quickly which then causes me to not see brothers and sisters but antagonists who must be taught a lesson (aka “taken down”).

Pope Francis speaks to my dilemma, inspiring words in the Apostolic Exhortation GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE.  

80. “Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. Matthew sums it up in one golden rule: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (7:12). The Catechism reminds us that this law is to be applied “in every case”, especially when we are “confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult.”

81. Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly. For this reason, in the Gospel of Luke we do not hear the words, “Be perfect” (Mt 5:48), but rather, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (6:36-38). Luke then adds something not to be overlooked: “The measure you give will be the measure you get back” (6:38). The yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this.

82. Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who plot revenge”. He calls “blessed” those who forgive and do so “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22). We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. If we approach the Lord with sincerity and listen carefully, there may well be times when we hear his reproach: “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt 18:33).

Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness. [i]

By seeing and acting with mercy I draw closer to God!  I draw closer to my brother and sister.

Probably the most difficult act of mercy is forgiving.  It asks so much of me!  But with God all things are possible and God gives what is needed.  In these days of division and enmity, we are asked to do the impossible.  God wants us in community with our brother and sister.  What will you do today to see and act with mercy, especially to someone who needs that lesson so badly!

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