In churches which follow a liturgical year, yesterday was the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. The concept of divine mercy is both interesting and essential to our Christian faith, but it is not always easy to understand. Since I wrote about compassion in my last blog post, it follows easily to write about mercy in this one.
Jesus, of course, was a Lord of both compassion and mercy. The two of them go hand in hand, but compassion is basically an emotion, a way we look at others and move from looking at them that way to treating them that way. Compassion literally means “feeling with” and moves the concept of true love of humankind from something we do towards them to something we do with them, taking into consideration their real needs and feelings. Because of its true meaning, compassion is an emotion we hope all Christians feel and employ.
Mercy is far more, particularly if we look at the meaning of mercy in the Bible. People can be merciful by being forgiving, kind and compassionate to others. Mercy is including in the Beatitudes as “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” We are expected to follow Jesus’ example in the way that we treat others, and God looks with favor on that mercy.
But mercy in the Bible is overall about God. It is a quality which we can imitate but cannot attain in its entirety. Mercy is bound up in God’s covenant and promises to us and in His gift of His Son, in total forgiveness, and in eternal life. Such mercy is far beyond mankind’s mercy.
God’s mercy is abundant and infinite. Abundance implies a lot, but infinite tells us that God’s mercy absolutely has no end. The other word which is my favorite for this concept is “everlasting,” as in one of my favorite hymns, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” This kind of love isn’t going to end with divorce, abandonment, death or change of mind the way that human love can end. This love comes from a God known as “alpha and omega,” the beginning and the end, the eternal presence throughout all of existence.
As we continue to celebrate Easter, let’s celebrate mercy, the great gift of the God of Love.
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.