So I say to you, “I’ll give you $40 if you wash and wax my car.” And you say, “Deal”. So you do a great job, the car is perfect, but contrary to our agreement, I only give you $20. “Hey, you owe me $20!” you cry. “I changed my mind”, I say, “and besides, you used my bucket and soap!”
Besides never washing my car again, you’ll continue to remind me that I owe you 20 bucks. Why? Because we made a deal, recognized by law. I was legally obliged to pay you $40.
So knowing you’d tell everyone in Webster that I’d stiffed you, I finally decide to pay you the full amount. Our friendship will still need repair, but at least JUSTICE IS SERVED. Justice is giving to another what they deserve or have a “right” to.
So later that day I get in my shiny clean car and race across the Bay Bridge. Suddenly, there are those scary red and blue flashing lights in the mirror. “License and registration please,” says the officer. (68 in a 55 zone). That “deserves” $125 to the town court. Justice served.
We can get the idea that justice is the highest form of human relationship . . . to give everyone what they deserve and have a right to is humanity at its best. True, in a community wracked with poverty and crime – – – justice is a blessing. But, in the Christian perspective justice is the minimum that is expected of us. It’s no big deal to be “just”.
We are called to a higher level of relationship. We are to be a people of Mercy. Webster’s Dictionary defines mercy as “kindness in excess of what is deserved or demanded by fairness”.
We see it everywhere in the Gospels. Jesus tells us:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.” Mt. 5:44
“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Lk. 23:34
“If someone asks for your coat, give them your shirt as well; to walk a mile, walk with them for two miles.” Lk. 6:27
The father put the gold ring and royal cloak on his wastrel son because “He was lost but now he is found.” Lk. 15:24
The laborers received a full day’s wage for just one hour’s work. Mt. 20:8
And St. Paul marvels at the mercy of God when he declares “that while we were still sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for us.” Rm. 5:5
Why be merciful? Because that is how God is.
So as we begin The Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are invited to recall God’s mercy in our own lives (the countless times I’ve received more from life and God than I ever deserved). And, we are called to let that mercy transform our lives, so that, as we have received . . . we now give this mercy to others.
Giving “mercy” is a work of God’s grace. God will inspire it in the particular kind that only you can provide. It has its origin, of course, in love. Love’s vase is filled with many flowers — Hope, Joy, Forgiveness, Patience, Constancy, and greatest of all is Mercy.
PS. Stay tuned for upcoming events at Holy Trinity that will help us celebrate The Year of Mercy.
“We constantly need to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends upon it.”
(Pope Francis, MV.2)