I recently came across an ugly blog post about something I wrote.
The blogger quoted one of my articles, accused me of “papolatry” and paired it with a video of the Barney theme song.
Now, I don’t mind being accused of excessive love for the pope (there are worse things one can be accused of), but I did find the distasteful pairing of my writing with a soggy, nausea-inducing song that has grated on adult nerves for more than a generation to be pretty much unforgivable.
One of the Gospel readings for Christmas Day tells us:
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
This reminded me of a line from Pope Francis’ letter for the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected.”
I have found that when it comes down to it, my mercy toward others often sums up to being merciful toward others who are merciful to me, or toward those who can repay me in some way.
I try to reach out to the elderly sisters in the convent where I live. It is much easier for me to be kind to the sisters who smile and squeeze my hand than it is to reach out to the sisters who are more abrasive or needy.
I also have realized that I forgive friends, family and my sisters in the convent who I want to remain in relationship with, but with others, I choose to maintain resentments. I don’t usually do this consciously, but sometimes it is just easier not to expend the energy it would require to work through even the smallest slights. Instead, I avoid some people or write them off after they have wronged me once, or have been rude one too many times. I quickly lose patience; I stop reaching out. I stop trying.
I have found that extending mercy toward a person who has slighted me in the smallest of ways can sometimes be more difficult than forgiving those who have truly hurt me deeply. Perhaps it is the small things that are easier to push under the rug of our subconscious, while the larger wounds are sometimes more difficult to ignore. It is much more in our interest to address them, to search for healing and to move on.
This is human mercy. It is a mercy that is generous when it is in one’s personal interest, but forgetful when it does not seem to matter. It is a stingy mercy that is often really just looking out for oneself.
But Jesus calls us to a mercy that is bigger, more generous, more divine. It is a mercy that flows from the “fullness” of grace that we have been given through the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. It is a mercy that is rooted in our Merciful Savior and extends forgiveness in the same way to everything and everyone, even people who hurt us in small, seemingly easy-to-forget ways (including cranky bloggers!).
God’s mercy is indulgent. It goes overboard. It goes beyond the law. His mercy shocks and astounds with an overabundance of generosity. God’s mercy is not just for our big sins, it is for our small sins, the ones that even we have a hard time living with.
Every New Year’s I try to think of some resolutions I can make to help me both on a human and a spiritual level. Sometimes resolutions are simple, like exercise or read more spiritual books.
This year, in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy (and the pope who I unashamedly love), I plan to think of resolutions that are in line with these questions:
How can I be more open to God’s mercy?
How can I become the face of mercy to others?
What are the obstacles to receiving/giving mercy in my life, and how can I work with God to overcome them?
Do you have any resolutions you would like to share? Any questions that you plan to ask yourself this year?
Please feel free to share them in the comments.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She recently pronounced her first vows with the Daughters of Saint Paul. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.
Of Related Interest:
56 Ways to Be Merciful in the Jubilee Year of Mercy