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What is Mercy? Find out in Luke 11:4

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The virtue of Mercy is at the very center of the Christian Gospel. It is the reason for the Incarnation. It is the motivation of our faith, for mercy reveals the true love of God the Father for all of us.

The first thing that comes to my mind whenever I read this verse is the prayer we all have been given by Jesus himself, The Lord’s Prayer. One of the petitions in that prayer is, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Luke 11:4) In this passage we are taught, rightfully, to ask for and to contemplate God the Father’s generous mercy toward us, but we are also taught that we must practice that same mercy toward those who have injured us in our own personal lives. This is a powerful thought. We are challenged to see that the undeserved mercy we receive from God requires us to be merciful in turn. Our faith is not a passive thing. As James tells us in his letter, “Faith without good works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) What is the greatest “work” of our faith? Is it not mercy, the act of forgiveness? Is this not the chiefest act of Love?

Mercy, of course, is not easy for us without faith. With faith it becomes the greatest power in the world. We have reason for such faith. We have seen its power in the saving actions of Jesus, of course, but we have seen it in our own lives as well. After the murder of 9 people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC in 2015, were we not all knocked back on our heels when we heard the church members and family members of the fallen powerfully express their forgiveness toward the troubled young man who did it? A number of years ago, Time Magazine had a photo of Pope John Paul II in a jail cell embracing the man who had shot and tried to assassinate him in St. Peter’s Square. Both of these examples show us the meaning of this Beatitude. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

In participating in the love of God through mercy, we are promised His mercy in return. That is an exchange worthy of we who have been made in the very image and likeness of God. Mercy is a mercy does. Let us meditate on this powerful thought. Let us practice it often.

Lord, your mercy is the source of our lives now and forever. We ask you to help us, then, to be strong in mercy in our own daily lives. You have commanded us to love one another as you have loved us. Increase our faith and strengthen our wills to do this more and more regularly, at home and abroad. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.