Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus goes up a mountain to teach his disciples. In Luke’s gospel, read on the Monday of the 2nd week of lent, the mountain is the place where Jesus prays with them. Then he descends and teaches them at length about loving others, especially one’s enemies.
We can hear his words as an extension of the beatitude “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”
Notice what mercy means. It means not judging, not condemning, being forgiving. However, mercy does not stop there, it goes on to give gifts to the other. That’s the way God shows mercy. Like the father of the prodigal son, whom Luke describes later on in his gospel, God not only forgives but offers sinners a feast of unearned graces– “bring a robe–the best one–and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and scandals on his feet.”
God doesn’t ration mercy or hedge it around with caution. He doesn’t keep remembering anyone’s wrong.
St Bernard says that the merciful “are those who see the truth in their neighbor and reach out in compassion and identify in love with them, responding to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were their own.” Seeing the truth in our neighbor means, of course, seeing human frailty, misguided dreams, selfishness and sinfulness in others and recognizing that truth in ourselves. Mercy begins by knowing yourself.