In tomorrow’s RCIA class we’ll be discussing Jesus, God the Son, and we’re to bring our favorite picture of Jesus. I decided to ignore my knee-jerk reaction to the idea of “pictures of Jesus”… 🙂 Of course, as a child, I’d been shown numerous depictions of Jesus (including blond ones!) Now that I’m exploring Catholicism, I’ve been introduced to a picture of Jesus that I’d never seen before as a child, and it instantly became my favorite: the Divine Mercy picture.
The very thought of God’s mercy leaves me lost for words. I’ll quote here A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson:
Mercy sweetens all God’s other attributes. God’s holiness without mercy, and his justice without mercy were terrible. When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God, did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God’s power on work to help us; it makes his justice become our friend…
God’s mercy is free. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy. “I will love them freely.” Hosea 14: 4 …
God’s mercy is an overflowing mercy; it is infinite. “Plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 86: 6 …
God’s mercy is eternal. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” Psalm 103: 37. “His mercy endureth forever” is repeated twenty-six times in one psalm, Psalm 136. …
Oh tell others of God’s goodness, that you may set others blessing him, and that you may make God’s praises live when you are dead…
Imitate God in showing mercy. As God is the Father of mercy, show yourselves to be his children by being like him. Ambrose says, “The sum and definition of religion is, Be rich in works of mercy, be helpful to the bodies and souls of others. Scatter your golden seeds; let the lamp of your profession be filled with the oil of charity. Be merciful in giving and forgiving. ‘Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.’“
Ever since beginning to look into Catholicism, I’ve been contemplating God’s forgiveness and mercy, and about a year ago began praying the Divine Mercy prayers fairly regularly. I believe meditating on God’s boundless love and mercy helps one to get rid of petty ego. Of what possible importance can my little grievances and pissed-off-ness and pouting be compared to what we receive freely and bountifully from God?! The gulf between us and God is simply incredible.
Another new idea to me, from studying Catholicism (so amazing and enjoyable to learn all this!) is the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy that is emphasized in the Church. They are (from the online Catholic Encyclopedia):
Corporal Works of Mercy
- Feed the hungry;
- Give drink to the thirsty;
- Clothe the naked;
- Harbor the harborless;
- Visit the sick;
- Ransom the captive;
- Bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Instruct the ignorant;
- Counsel the doubtful;
- Admonish sinners;
- Bear wrongs patiently;
- Forgive offenses willingly;
- Comfort the afflicted;
- Pray for the living and the dead.
Quite a lot to work with, right there! From the same entry on that website we read this definition of mercy:
Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune. It is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that although mercy is as it were the spontaneous product of charity, yet it is to be reckoned a special virtue adequately distinguishable from this latter. In fact the Scholastics in cataloguing it consider it to be referable to the quality of justice mainly because, like justice, it controls relations between distinct persons. It is as they say ad alterum. Its motive is the misery which one discerns in another, particularly in so far as this condition is deemed to be, in some sense at least, involuntary. Obviously the necessity which is to be succored can be either of body or soul. Hence it is customary to enumerate both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
I will definitely write more about mercy in future posts, because it’s such a complex and rich topic! And so beautiful and almost incomprehensible…
I’ll leave you for now with this beautiful hymn.