Today God calls me back again to a message He has been repeating to me in the last few months in particular: Mercy.
I love this image of Jesus Christ, King of Mercy. He is flanked by angels who both adore His mercy and who are ready to do His bidding to mediate this mercy to His children, for whom it is intended.
Today I am reminded that I am dependent on God's mercy, and that mercy is the currency I must use in all of my interactions with other people, even in my thoughts of them.
Several weeks ago I wrote about my annual retreat, and in particular one oft-repeated quote from Pope Francis about how God does not meet us in the center of our certainties, but on our peripheries, on the fringes, in our sins, in our places of vulnerability. I remember the first time I heard a preacher say that God created us with strengths and weaknesses, on purpose. I was a little appalled. Weakness sounded too much like sin to me, and I couldn't grasp God making us with weaknesses on purpose. But that was largely because I could not bear to face my own weaknesses, because I felt like I was the only defense I had. If I admitted weakness, I may as well just lay down and die.
I missed the fact that God has indeed created us as communitarian souls. God created me with a weakness because He created you with a related strength (and vice versa) and He means for us to serve one another. This is the new order of the kingdom of God.
When I am looking down my nose at someone, or when I cannot see past an arrogance that flommoxes me or some other injustice perpetuated, I forget that the basic definition of a person is a walking, aching need. We are all gaping needs for God's mercy. Yes, some of us put a lot of energy into self- and other-deception to say "I don't need love and mercy, thank you very much." No one likes to poke around in things that are uncomfortable. (I take that back. I actually do.) And it is tempting sometimes to use mercy like a club: I can see that you are an arrogant son-of-a-bitch and you have a lot of hurt in your soul, so you really need mercy, you lousy excuse for a human being. But somewhere around this moment, that parable about the unmerciful servant clears its throat and reminds me that I only know how to give mercy by receiving mercy. And if I'm not receiving mercy, I'm out of the flow of God's life. Some individuals, shall we say, have a capacity for deepening our need for mercy by making us confront ugly tendencies in our hearts. Thanks be to God for those called to be our irritants.
And thanks be to God for His unfathomable mercy.