March 6, 2023
by Michael Kavan
Creighton University's School of Medicine
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 230

Daniel 9:4b-10
Psalm 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
Luke 6:36-38

Praying Lent

Doing Lent As A Family

Parish Resources For Lent

Remembering the Ashes

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke is a passage from what is referred to as the Sermon on the Plain. Some scholars believe this is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount found within Matthew, whereas others suggest they are closely related due to their similarities and parallel passages. That said, let’s reflect on today’s reading from Luke and what Jesus says to his disciples. 

Jesus begins with, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” He continues by telling his disciples to stop judging and they will not be judged, stop condemning others and they will not be condemned, and forgive and they will be forgiven and give and gifts will be given to them. Jesus ends by noting that “for the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

I believe most of us have a feel for the importance of treating others as we want to be treated. The more challenging question for me is  - What does Jesus mean by being “merciful?” I began by digging out The American Heritage Dictionary and looking up “mercy.” It defines mercy as the “kind and compassionate treatment of a person under one’s power.” It makes sense for mercy to entail being kind and compassionate to others, but I somehow think Jesus meant more than this. After further research into the topic, I came across Pope Francis’ Misericordiae Vultus, his letter that introduced the 2017 Holy Year of Mercy. Here, we find a deeper understanding of what is meant by God’s mercy. In Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis reminds us how the visceral nature of mercy comes from a personal relationship Jesus promised to us based on forgiveness and love, reconciliation, and truth. And since forgiveness is an essential part of mercy, when we look for examples, we see no better modeling on how to be merciful to those who have wronged us than by Jesus on the cross  - “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). But forgiving someone who has wronged us is not easy. And the Pope notes this as well - “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully” (Misericardiae Vultus). Not an easy task, but God has given us this gift to pardon. And as Jesus noted to his disciples, “Give and gifts will be given to you.”

I believe that becoming more merciful begins within ourselves. Too often we fail to ask for God’s forgiveness and maybe, more importantly, to accept it. As a psychologist, I see all too often clients who fail to seek forgiveness and fail to accept they are worthy of God’s mercy and love. However, once this is accomplished within our own minds and hearts, we create room to forgive others and, yes, even our enemies. Pope Francis tells us to do so with a heart filled first with forgiveness and then with a commitment to love others without measure. And finally, to follow Pope Francis’ words of his Youth Day letter when he wrote, “I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.” He continues by writing that “mercy does not just imply being a ‘good person’ nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world.” And as Luke reminds us, “the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

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