By Ryan Paul
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” – Luke 7:36
We are all called to be merciful just as God is merciful to us. The Greek word for mercy is Eleeo; it means to have compassion and patience for those who are suffering. The concern for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who are hurting is covered by the gift of Mercy. Those with this gift have great empathy for others in their trials and sufferings. They are able to walk with others over extended periods of time and see them through the healing process. They are truly the hands and feet of God to the afflicted.
The Holy Spirit empowers some in the Church with the spiritual gift of Mercy to love and aid those who are suffering, and journey with them until their burden is lifted. The gift of Mercy is founded in God’s mercy towards us as sinners and is consistently expressed with compassion. Those with this gift are able to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:5) and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). They are sensitive to the feelings and circumstances of others and can quickly discern when someone is not doing well. They are good listeners and feel the desire to simply “be there” for others.
Characteristics of someone with the gift of mercy
“Mercy is the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
1. Those with the gift of mercy have a great ability to feel the joy or sadness of another person.
They have an increased sense of discernment regarding emotions. They rarely have to ask, “How are you doing?” They intuitively sense how another person is doing emotionally. Those with a gift of mercy desire to see those who are hurting alleviated of their hurt.
2. Those with a gift of mercy are able to identify with others and experience what they are going through.
They have a special empathy and understanding of those who are under emotional stress and are actively attracted to those individuals. They have a great hope and desire to be able to help others simply by their presence and friendship.
3. Those with a gift of mercy desire to see those who are hurting alleviated of their hurt.
4. Those with a gift of mercy are sensitive to statements and actions that may hurt others.
5. Those with the gift of mercy have an ability to sense genuine unconditional love and to detect expressions of love that are insincere or hypocritical.
Mercy is associated with love. Mercy in itself is an action, not a feeling. The action of showing mercy is a response to love received. As such, an act of mercy is an act of love and is driven by love that has been first received by the giver. The apostle John exemplifies this. John valued love highly and referred to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.” To be loved by Jesus is the most meaningful identification that John, or all of us, can claim.
This resonates with me in my life. More often than not, as I look back and even now, my deepest desire is for love. Whenever I turn away from Him and choose the ways of the world, every action that I take still ultimately comes from that desire to be loved. And truly, what a joy it is to finally be able to claim the truth in coming to know, encounter and live in this love from God that truly satisfies that desire. Nothing can ever fill this restless heart of mine, other than the love that is given from Him. As St Augustine writes, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”, and in the CCC it states that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for (CCC 27).”
Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s love. He was the one sent to the world as an expression of God’s infinite love for all of us. Jesus always acted in a merciful and loving way to those in need. He saw and responded to the inner needs of the people. His desire was that all would come to encounter this unconditional love and mercy, and be reconciled to God the Father. Importantly, Jesus did not just talk about love. He showed it by the giving of His very life for all of us. St Augustine writes: “God created us without us, but he will not save us without us”
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” – John 3:17
Miserando Atque Eligendo
“I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy” – Pope Francis
Pope Francis’ episcopal motto in Latin is “Miserando atque eligendo,” which means “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.”
The phrase comes from a homily by St. Bede, an English eighth-century Christian writer and doctor of the church. St. Bede’s homily looks at the call of Matthew, where Jesus saw the tax collector sitting at his post, and said to him, “Follow me.” St. Bede explained, “Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men. He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: ‘Follow me.’ This “following” meant imitating Jesus’ pattern and way of life; not just walking after Him. St. John tells us: “Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’”
As I was reflecting on this too, I realise that in my own journey with the Lord, every invitation that He brings me to is an invitation for me to go deeper into His mercy and love. That I, broken and sinful, am looked upon with the eyes of mercy. Unworthy and inadequate as I am, it is He who looks on me with those eyes and calls me with love to follow him. That He sees me truly as who I am, and not my own thinking of who I think I am.
The choice of a name and motto says a lot about a Pope. Pope Francis seeks to embody the mercy of God made visible in Christ. Mercy is at the heart of Pope Francis’ ministry. The name he chose, Francis, flows beautifully from his desire to bring about this mercy, just as St. Francis of Assisi did. Humble and generous, St. Francis sought to understand more than to be understood, and gave away all his possessions to follow Christ completely. St. Francis only wanted to lead others in the way of Jesus Christ and His Church. For sure, Pope Francis too is aware of the need for a bold and tender witness to Christ. The mercy of God touches all hearts, even those who have turned away. The Church exists to bring about this mercy and love to the world.
As we carry on our daily life, may we never forget the call for us to be the face of Christ to all whom we meet, wherever that may be. To be vessels of love and mercy, inspired and driven by the love received from God. May our lives truly be one that bears witness to this as we strive to live out the prayer of St. Francis every day of our lives.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
About the writer: Ryan Paul has just started working for the office. He enjoys sleeping and does not eat vegetables.
Office for Young People seeks to raise up a generation of young people passionately in love with Jesus and His Church.