As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried and convicted for the crime of treason against the United States. The trial was long and bitter. As the final sentence was read, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs cried out, “Your honor, my clients ask for justice!” To the plea for justice Judge Irving Kaufman replied: “What the court has given them is what they ask, justice! What they really want is mercy.”
Judge Kaufman drew an important distinction: justice is getting what we deserve, and mercy is not getting what we deserve. Mercy deals with need, not with what is deserved. God showers His mercy on the undeserving, and asks us to do the same.
Sometimes Jesus’ words are misunderstood to mean “Blessed are those that are merciful in order that they earn mercy”. People misread Jesus to mean, “do this in order to get that”; as though we could earn God’s mercy by being merciful. Pastor Tim Kellar, in his book The Prodigal God, provides insight into this frequent misunderstanding about earned mercy:
Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy; but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting forgiveness.
It is God’s mercy and unbounded forgiveness that becomes the motive for us wanting to show mercy to others. God’s method is always to awaken mercy in us by first showering us with mercy. We stand in the middle, between receiving God’s mercy and passing on that mercy to others. Nothing proves so well that we have received God’s mercy as our readiness to show mercy to others. How blessed are those who in experiencing mercy, find that they can show mercy to others.
While we always look back with thanks for mercies shown, we also look ahead to the mercy we will yet need. St. Augustine prayed in his Confessions: “Every day my conscience makes confession relying on the hope of Your mercy as more to be trusted than its own innocence”. St. John Chrysostom of the Eastern Orthodox Church acknowledged: “Even if we reach the summit of virtue, we are saved only by God’s mercy”.
It seems that the more we grasp the mercy God has shown us, the more we want to show mercy to others. In that act of showing mercy, we find greater experience of the mercy shown to us.
PONDER AND PRAY
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!” (Jesus Prayer)
- Along with the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer is the most often prayed prayer in the world. It originated in the early church as a way of obeying the command to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). The Jesus Prayer is based on the repeated cries to Jesus for mercy in the Gospels (Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30; Mark 10:47; Luke 17:13). The Jesus Prayer is also a succinct, creedal confession of our faith: Jesus is Lord, Christ, and Son of God.
- Repeat the Jesus Prayer frequently and, in time, you will likely find the prayer for Christ’s healing mercy to be very powerful in your life.
- What do you want To Say To God?