26. Mercy

No doubt the most popular short prayer in every culture is, "God have mercy." Even when abbreviated simply to "God," or sometimes "Oh, God,' our petition is the same. We ask God to be merciful with us, and hope he will. This prayer expresses our natural human belief that God is merciful and "will have mercy on whom he will have mercy."

Mercy is a compassionate attitude toward others, with a desire to alleviate their discomfort or distress. In times of disaster, compassion and concern for the distress of others seems to be our natural and normal behavior. In such times many will put aside their personal interests and work for the common good as best they can. Some might say Jesus' mercy beatitude is unnecessary because we have some internal drive for compassion.

A close look at mankind's history proves the opposite. Man's inhumanity to man has always been the ruling force of history. The tragic story of our past is selfishness, inconsideration, and cruelty. The continual result is political oppression, war, poverty, and slavery. General indifference to social distress has generated mandatory government welfare programs addressing every human need.

So our core nature is not generous mercy but self-concern and indifference. In this fifth beatitude, Jesus tied giving mercy with receiving mercy. Here you are told God's rule is for mercy, and the more mercy you give, the more you will receive. That has always been a spiritual law: as you sow, so shall you reap.

God's will for you is a merciful attitude that will bring about merciful acts. He promises his mercy to you. He asks you to be as merciful to others as you want him to be merciful to you. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Mercy is marvelous. Mercy brings its own rewards.

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