Mercy is more than forgiveness; it's a call to imitate the Lord.
The feast of Divine Mercy invites us to discover more deeply how much the Lord, “the God of tenderness and mercy, slow to anger, rich in grace and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), is seized with compassion before the misery of sinful man. He does not turn away those who cry out to Him and asks only one thing: that we have the simplicity and the boldness—that of little children—to throw ourselves into His arms, to have untiring recourse to His love. The more we perceive how much the Lord wants to fill every person with His mercy, the more we feel called to be witnesses to it.
We cannot embrace mercy without being merciful ourselves
The most terrible thing is not to sin, but to doubt God’s mercy. To see this, compare Judas’ despair and Peter’s tears after both of them betrayed Jesus. One hanged himself, the other allowed himself to be reconciled with his Lord and became one of the greatest saints we know.
We cannot welcome mercy without being merciful in turn. “Forgive us as we forgive,” we say in the Lord’s Prayer. “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36), insists Jesus who, to make himself even clearer, tells the parable of the ruthless debtor (Mt 18:23-35), that hard-hearted debtor that we all are when we refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters while God forgives us.
Mercy is a faithful tenderness, compassion
Mercy disarms us. Instead of bringing forth in us the judgment that condemns, instead of moving us to utter the word that closes us off, it opens our hearts to the suffering of our brethren. “We give God only by radiance,” said Martha Robin. Mercy is only proclaimed by living it, every day, wherever we are.
Mercy is not only forgiveness. It is a faithful tenderness, a compassion that grasps the person in the depths of his or her being. And this in the face of all kinds of misery: sin, of course, but also hunger, thirst, isolation, despair, deprivation of freedom, physical pain, social decline, in short, what Jesus enumerates when He speaks of the Last Judgment: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a prisoner, sick, a stranger …”(Mt 25:31-46). “Teaching, counseling, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2447).
We live mercy by accompanying others in their suffering
Works of mercy are not “good deeds” in the narrow sense of the term. We are all tempted to come to the aid of our neighbor from the height of our virtue, our devotion, our social situation, our material means. But then, it is not a question of mercy; for mercy is lived only by joining the other in their misery, which for each of us means accepting our own misery. It is only by agreeing to recognize myself as poor and sinful before God, by standing before Him as a poor person, that I can receive from Him the love of mercy with which I, in turn, can love my brothers and sisters. It is not a question of “spiritual pauperism” by denying my abilities and my riches: it is a question of being well aware that I deserve nothing, that everything has been given to me freely, and that I am, fundamentally, a “little one” who owes everything to his Father.
This is particularly evident in all educational tasks. Mercy is, in a sense, the tone of Christian education — that mercy that makes us patient, available to listen and console, capable of explaining the same thing 50 times and repeating the same tasks indefinitely, that opens our hearts and arms to welcome the prodigal son and forgives “seventy times seven.” This mercy that makes us, first of all, accept ourselves from God as we are, without being irritated by our own limitations. Our authority will be all the greater with our children because it will not be based on our own strength, but on the Lord. And we will be all the more patient with them because we will constantly rely, with all our weaknesses and errors, on His infinite mercy.