This week, we celebrate God’s mercy for us and our world. Those of you who are parents or grandparents or uncles or aunts have had the exciting experience of encouraging the very young to begin walking. You get wonderfully thrilled when they take that first step and then find yourself laughing when the little one goes boom.
The little one might want to cry and look to you for your response. Your smile, your outreaching hands, your gentle touch, is the beginning of his or her rising.
What would happen if your disappointment and anger at the child’s failure were to show on your face and in your gestures? The child’s image of self would be quite negative, and the getting up again would be slower, if at all.
God’s mercy is more than forgiveness; it is also about raising us up that we might continue learning how to walk in God’s ways. Mercy is not merely a judicial action, a court decision. God’s mercy is a relational gesture that flows from the very center of God’s creative and sustaining love for us.
When Jesus is moved with compassion for a person or the crowds, the meaning is not so much pity or even forgiveness. Jesus is pictured as being moved from deep down in his stomach, where the emotions were thought to reside. Jesus is moved to reach out, teach, feed, and lead his lost and fallen fellow humans.
Praying this week is meant to free us from the fear that God is judicially angry or disappointed with our having fallen more than once. We are invited to receive God’s gentle touch and God’s encouragement to rise and continue learning what it is to be God’s disciple.
Mercy is above all of God’s works, and we pray in the experience of letting Jesus be Jesus: “the one who saves.”
So we begin this week celebrating our holiness, which involves the truth of our needing mercy, of being embraced by the truth of God’s faithful upraising love. This mercy, this compassion, if received gratefully, will ultimately free us for the more important faith walk into God’s future and our own. Pray gently, Jesus came to save us not to solve us.