Growing up I often heard that being merciful is giving away my extra clothes, spending a few extra dollars on food for the begging man that stands in the Target parking lot, and maybe also praying for those in prison. That is very much what mercy is, but perhaps it’s a little more than that too.
I thought I was a pro at this whole mercy thing until a couple of months ago when I realized that I definitely wasn’t. I was spending some time with Jesus in adoration praying about a couple of different situations that involved a couple of different friends. These situations caused a lot of confusion, anger, and pain not only for me, but for others who I care a lot about. Naturally, I was very upset. For a while, I took my anger out on the people that hurt me and my friends by talking poorly about them, by ignoring them, and by hoping that what they did would come around and bite them in the butt. I felt this way until I flipped open my bible to the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable the son takes all of his inheritance and wastes it on alcohol, parties, and a life that really wasn’t worth living. When the son finally ran out of money he had no other option than to return to his father. When he returned home his father embraced him, kissed him, and put the finest clothes on him and then celebrated with a huge feast.
It hit me then that I had no clue what mercy actually was and that I was far from living a merciful life.
I have read that parable 100 times before and really thought nothing of it. When I read it on that Wednesday night in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament I knew that I was called to be like that father, to be that friend. I knew that instead of hating the people that hurt me that I needed to be merciful to them. I needed to love them. So that’s what I did. I began to love the people that hurt me and the people that hated me. I began to love the people that annoyed me and the people who didn’t even realize the mess that they had made. It was difficult. My friends asked why in the world I would be choosing to love when I had every reason to hate. Even the people that hurt me asked the same thing. Despite those comments and the comments that I even made to myself, I chose to love. Now, what does that mean? What does it mean to love?
To love someone that has hurt you means to simply be kind. To not talk about them, to not continually bring up what they have done, to not ruin their reputation, but to forgive. Depending on how serious the situation is, loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting what they have done, but letting it go in order for you both to move on. To love means not spreading rumors about the girl who made rude comments to you at school, not getting upset when someone misunderstands you, and calmly asking your best friend why she lied to you instead of freaking out. Love is still wanting the best for others despite what they might think about you. To love means to be merciful.
In the last few months I have learned that mercy is far more beautiful than I had originally thought. It’s been hard. At the same time, this choice to be merciful has been so so so rewarding. Choosing to be merciful has allowed me to recognize the times when the people around me have shown me mercy and it has helped me love those people more. The rewards go both ways and its absolutely beautiful.
I challenge you to find at least one person to be especially merciful to. Be merciful to everyone you meet by letting go of the little things that, in the long run, don’t really matter. I also challenge you to find the prodigal sons in your life. Love them. Show them kindness. And show them mercy.