Blessed are the Merciful
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
2. * Joy
3. * Peace
Saint Thomas Aquinas lists Three (3)
'Effects' which flow from the
Virtue of Charity, namely, Joy (Fruit),
Peace (Fruit), and the Virtue of Mercy
(II II, 28). We are concerned here only with the
Third 'Effect'. Charity is a Unitive Force, uniting us with both
God and Neighbor. With regard to God, it
inclines us to surrender our Will to His;
and with regard to our Neighbor, it makes us Rejoice over the Good of our Neighbor, and
Sorrow over the Evil that befalls him,
because True Charity causes us to consider his
Good or Bad Fortune as our own.
Mercy, then, is Charity's response to the
Suffering of others. It is Compassion for the
Misery or Suffering of another which stirs us to do what we can to Alleviate
that Misery. It is not pure Sentimentality, or merely the
Distress one experiences at the Sight of Suffering, which might bring forth
many Tears, but does not incline one to do something to relieve that
Sorrow or Misery.
The Merciful Person is Saddened by any
kind of Human Wretchedness - Physical or
Moral - for he sees the Afflicted Ones as
Brothers or Sisters in Christ, and beseeches His
Mercy on their behalf, at least by Prayer, if other means are not possible
or feasible. It might be the Wretchedness or Suffering of
Poverty, Sickness, Business
Misfortune, Loss of a Friend, the Moral
Misery of Habitual Sin, etc.
God's Merciful Plan
The Whole Story of our Redemption is a Story of Godís
Merciful Love, of His Special Goodness towards
Sinners. In His Infinite Love,
God created Man in His own Likeness and Image, making him capable of sharing in that
Love and Truth which is a
'Sharing' in the very
Life of God. But when the First Man and Woman
Rebelled against the Restrictions in God's Plan
for them, causing them to Lose the Divine Life of
Grace and the possibility of entering Heaven, the
Eternal Father in His Merciful Love revealed that
He would send His Only-Begotten Son to rescue Man from the
Pitiful State into which he had Fallen.
Thus, the Son of God became Man in order to 'Share' in the
Misery of the Human lot and to rescue Man from it. It was Right, says
Saint Paul, that He should in all things be made like His Brethren, that He might become
a Merciful and Faithful High Priest to expiate the Sins of the People (Hebrews 2:17).
Jesus, being the Image of the Father, by
His Words and Actions, and especially by
His Passion and Death, makes
'Visible' the Mercy of the Father.
Conditions of God's Mercy
REPENTANCE and CONVERSION: The Greatest Sin imaginable
is not too-great to be Forgiven, if the Sinner is
Truly Repentant. Thus we see the Limitless
Mercy of God towards Sinners, all of whom
He Wills to be Saved.
I desire not the Death of the Wicked, but that the Wicked turn from his way and live
(Ezra 33:11). Even the Worst of Sinners
God gives Sufficient Grace to Repent
and Amend their Ways. If your Sins be as Scarlet, they shall be
made White as Wool (Isaiah 1:18).
While Hardened Sinners are never
'Excluded' from the Grace of
Conversion, they can and at times do, Resist God's
Invitations and Inspirations, clinging to their own Will and Ideas. Speaking
of this Resistance to God's Merciful Love,
Pope John Paul II commented:
The only thing that can limit its effect in Human Beings is the lack of Good Will, that is, of
Repentance and Conversion; or in positive terms, a Persistent, Stubborn Rejection of Grace and Truth, especially by refusing the
Testimony of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
in Mercy, n. 13).
One Refuses the Testimony of the Cross who 'Closes' his
Mind and Heart to the
Redeeming Power and Love of Christ's
Passion and Death. One must believe that
Christ's Sacrifice is
Infinite (∞) in its Redeeming and
Healing Power, more-than-sufficient to enable the Sinner
to make the Sacrifice of letting go of his Sinful Ways.
WORKS of MERCY: While both the Old and New Testament Reveal the Limitless Dimensions of
God's Mercy, the New Testament goes beyond the Old in its Emphasis on
Mercy as a Divine Characteristic which Men must share. If they are to be the
Recipient of Mercy, they must Practice Mercy. There are
as many ways of Exercising Works of Mercy as there are Human Needs. However, Tradition has arranged the
most-common Works of Mercy into Two (2) Series of
Seven (7) as follows:
To believe in the Crucified Son . . . means believing that Love exists in the World and is Stronger
than any Evil in which Person or Race or the World is ensnared . . . . It is to Believe in Mercy, . . . the Specific Way in which Love
is Revealed and Exercised against the real Evil in the World that Tempts and Besieges Human Beings and works its way into their Hearts
in Mercy, n. 7).
CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY:
To Feed the Hungry
To give Drink to the Thirsty
To Clothe the Naked
To give Shelter to those who need it
To Visit the Sick
To Minister to Prisoners
To Bury the Dead
SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY:
To Instruct the Ignorant
To Counsel the Doubtful
To Admonish the Sinner
To Bear wrongs Patiently
To Forgive all Injuries
To Comfort the Sorrowful
To Pray for the Living and the Dead
Our Blessed Lord, after explaining various ways in which
Merciful Love responds to Offenses and
Enemies, declares how we must be Merciful to our Fellow Humans if we expect to
receive Divine Mercy:
Do not Judge, and you shall not be Judged; do not Condemn, and you shall not be Condemned. Forgive
and you shall be Forgiven; Give, and it shall be Given to you, Good Measure, Pressed Down, Shaken Together, Running Over, shall they
pour into your lap. For the Measure you Measure with will be Measured back to you (Luke 6:37, 38).
Our Savior laid down the same condition for Mercy
in the Prayer He taught us:
Forgive us our Trespasses, as we forgive those who Trespass against us (Matthew
6:12). Those few words which we repeat often can bring us a more Lenient or a more Severe Judgment according as we are Willing or not Willing to
Forgive others. Judgment is without Mercy to him who has not shown
Mercy (James 2:13). So it is not God Who puts Limits on
His Mercy, but rather we ourselves.
Mercy Involves Sacrifice
Christ gave the Ultimate Expression of Merciful Love in
His Sacrifice on
Calvary, and He asks that we return His Love
through Sacrifices of Merciful Love towards our Neighbor
in Need. Each passing day, with our Minor Faults and
Self-Centered Decisions, we add-to our Need of
Mercy. It is true, as Saint Peter says, that Charity
covers a Multitude of Sins (1Peter 4:8), but that is only because of the
Merciful Sacrifice of Christ
which gives our Merciful Deeds their Redeeming Quality.
The more we need God's Mercy, therefore, the more we should Practice the
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. It is a most Efficacious Way of attracting the
Merciful Heart of our Savior to our
Needs, for As long as you did it for one of these, the least of My Brethren, you did
it for Me (Matthew 25:40).
Although we all Need God's Mercy, we do not
Sense that Need as we do the Needs of the
Body. We do not feel the Soul's
Needs as we feel the Hunger of the
Body. And for that Reason we can easily forget Christ's
Warning as to the Importance of showing Mercy, if we are to receive
Mercy, and can be Unforgiving in regard to another's
Offenses, and Unmindful in regard to his Needs.
Selfishness in all its Forms is an Obstacle to
Mercy, for it is Directly Opposed to
Charity which is essentially Self-Giving,
Self-Sacrificing. That is why Saint Leo the Great speaks of the Sacrificial
Offerings of Works of Mercy, and sees them as a
Fruitful Remote Preparation for our Union with Christ in the
Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. Any Act of Mercy, of whatever kind,
pleases God, for He sees it as a Reflection of
His Own Merciful Love.
Only at the End of the World will Love conquer all of the Innermost Sources of
Evil in all the Elect, and bring-forth the Reign of Justice and
Charity. For the basis of this Final Victory, says Pope
John Paul II, is the Cross and Death of Christ . . . . In our State and in the Course of Human History,
Love must be shown explicitly in the Form of Mercy and Exercised in that Form.
While one Motivated by True Charity does not perform Good
Deeds in order to Enrich himself, the fact is that he cannot perform Charitable
Deeds without Enriching himself. And so it is with Works of Mercy. The one
who Gives, often Benefits more than the one who Receives. Give to the Poor and you receive
from Christ. The Benefit you bestow is of the Natural and Temporal Order, whereas the Benefit
you receive is Supernatural and Eternal. And
God always out-gives us a Hundred-fold.
Saint Leo the Great speaks beautifully of Merciful Love, referring especially
No Act of Devotion on the part of the Faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on
the Poor. Where He finds Charity with its Loving Concern, there He recognizes the Reflection of His Own Fatherly care . . . . In these
Acts of Giving do not fear the Lack of Means. A Generous Spirit is itself Great Wealth. There can be no shortage of material for
generosity when it is Christ Who feeds and Christ Who is fed. In all this Activity there is present the Hand of Him Who multiplies the
Bread by breaking it, and increases it by giving it away. The Giver of Alms should be Free of Anxiety and Full of Joy. His Gain will be
greatest when he keeps back least for himselfĒ (Homily, Roman Breviary).
Saint Basil the Great speaks in a similar Vein:
When you give to the poor you are bearing Fruit which you will gather in for yourself, since the
Reward for Good Works goes to those who perform them. Give to the Hungry Man, and what you give becomes yours, and indeed it returns
to you with Interest
When we have nothing to share with others in a Material Way, there is always the Spiritual
Gift of Prayer and Sacrifice,
which can be offered to God for the Needs of others.
When one learns to give of himself in this way, he is never without the Means of Giving.
How much some are Willing to spend on Temporal
Satisfactions and Enjoyments that bring no
Eternal Reward. They are industrious about investing their
Wealth in ways that bring a Material Reward, but
have little concern about investing some of it with the Needy, where it increases the one kind of
Wealth they can take with them to the Life Beyond.
Divine Mercy and the World's Misery
Since God is Infinitely Merciful, and since
Mercy seeks to eliminate the Misery of another,
why does God allow such Misery to exist in the
World? That is a question many ask. It even makes some Doubt
God's concern for us, His Providence over all that
He has created. How do we Reconcile the Providence of
God, and so much Misery in the World? Why does
He leave so many in their Misery, their
Sickness, their Dire Poverty?
God is concerned Primarily about our Eternal
Welfare. Not that He is not concerned about our Welfare in this World,
but as Saint Paul declares, I reckon that the Sufferings of the Present Time are
not worthy to be compared to the Glory to come that will be Revealed in us (Romans 8:18). In
His Infinite Wisdom, God can bring
Good out-of Evil. He
can use the Sufferings of this World to cancel the Debt
of Sin, the Punishment of which would be far-greater
in the life-to-come. Too, He can use the Misery of some
to bring-out the Mercy of others. If there were no
Suffering in the World, there would be no Mercy, for the Object of
Mercy is the Misery of others.
But the bottom-line is that Suffering in this World is the result of
Sin. Sin entered into the World with the
Rebellion of our First Parents, and its effects are continually compounded by the
Daily Sins of Avarice,
Pride, Jealousy, etc., the roots of which we all have. And
God cannot remove Sin from the World without taking away Man's
Free Will, which He will not do. If Man
Abuses his Freedom, he must take the Consequences.
The Unfortunate Thing is that many Suffer because of the
Abuses of others.
Only in the Light of Faith can we understand that the Spiritual
Misery of Sin is a far greater
Evil than the Physical Evils of
Poverty, Sickness, etc. Because of this the Eternal
Father's Merciful Love led Him to send His
Only-Begotten Son into the World to remove the Greatest Evil for the Whole
of Mankind, the Loss of Friendship with God and the
Exclusion from Heaven. Thus our Divine Redeemer by
His Life, Passion and
Death won the Graces to Restore Man to His
Friendship, Reopened to Mankind the Gates of Heaven, and Established the
Church as the Channel through which the Graces
won by His Passion, would be Dispensed to Mankind.
He did not remove Suffering from Human Life.
On the contrary, He declared that only by carrying one's
Cross (which implies Suffering) can one be
His Disciple. Pope John Paul II speaks of this Paradox of
Divine Mercy in his Encyclical
in Mercy) already referred to:
"The True and Proper meaning of Mercy is not simply that one gazes, however Penetratingly and
Compassionately, on Moral or Physical or Material Evil. No, what is special about True Mercy is that it Discerns, Fosters and Elicits
Good from all forms of Evil in the World and in Human Beings. Thus understood, Mercy is the Central Teaching of Christs Messianic
Message and the Power that explains His Work".
Seeing Christ in His Members
The True Practice of Mercy requires a Deep Faith
that makes the Mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ
a Vivid Reality, enabling one to seek Christ in those in Need,
ever aware that as long as you did it for one of these, the least of My Brethren, you did it for Me
Since Goodness begets Goodness, the more
one ponders Prayerfully that Mystery and
God's Merciful Love towards Sinful Mankind, the more he begins to see the various Forms
of Human Wretchedness as Wounds in the
Mystical Body of Christ: the Poor, the Sick,
the Sinner, the Abandoned, etc., and the more he is inspired
to reach out, whether by Prayer or Action, a Helping Hand. It seems
that no one in our present day World had a Truer Understanding of the Virtue of Mercy, and no one practiced
it more Heroically that Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as her words testify:
The Shut-in, the Unwanted, the Unloved, the Alcoholics, the dying Destitute, the Abandoned and the
Lonely, the Outcasts and the Untouchables, the Leprosy Sufferers, all those who are burdens to Human Society, all who have lost Hope
and Faith in life . . .(all of these) look to us for comfort. If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ . . . . I appeal to
everyone to give your hands to serve Christ in the Poor, and your Hearts to Love Him in them.
Mother Teresa bore with Joy the
Hardships involved in caring for the Unfortunate and
Unwanted, and could say with Saint Paul: I Rejoice now in the
Sufferings I bear for your sake; and what is lacking in the Sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for His Body, which is the
Church (Colossians 1:24).
Blessed are the Merciful, they shall obtain Mercy (Matthew 5:7).
Links to other Pages on Virtues
Three (3) Theological Virtues
Four (4) Main Moral Virtues
No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues