I have been thinking about mercy lately. Mercy is something so fundamental to our Christian faith, and yet it seems to be so elusive. It’s not hard to think of a definition for the word, but its application is a continually difficult task: the important message of forgiveness that our Lord proclaimed is not an easy one. On one hand, we can close off and condemn people when we feel wronged, or for differences in opinion (especially when they challenge our own beliefs). On the other hand, we can—under the guise of ‘mercy’—make no one accountable for their actions. Neither of these are good conclusions, but I want to focus on the former one for now.
Because we have the Deposit of Faith, the Traditions of the Church, and the Revelation of Scripture, it is for good reason that we have a strong sense of conviction: our faith is true. This beautiful truth is amazing and so we want to share with the world our wonderful savior, God, and friend, Jesus Christ. But when we encounter people without this knowledge, we can lose sight of our goal. When a nonbeliever confronts one of our beliefs, we can become defensive. Yet nobody wins when a conversation becomes adversarial. The argument might be ‘won’ in the sense that the ‘right’ things were said, but without tact such conversations breed resentment rather than true conversion. Conversations with those who have given up the life of faith require similar tact. We must speak the truth, yes, but we must speak the truth with love and mercy.
We live in an age where many Catholics do not practice their own faith and others have more explicitly abandoned it. I have often seen good and sincere efforts to bring unbelieving loved ones to the faith. Sometimes, these good intentions turn into indignation when things do not work out the way we want them to, and our attempts to share our faith are rebuffed. But we must keep things in perspective. We cannot control others. Each person’s assent to God must be enabled by God’s grace and chosen for oneself. We must be loving, patient, and merciful, extending to others the same portion that we would want others to extend to us. After all, are we not all sinners in need of mercy? Remember always that God, knowing all our faults and failures, loves us just the same. Always be a diligent Christian and never fail to extend the hand of mercy the moment it is sought. Our goal must be to bring people to believe in God, not to win arguments. In this, mercy is vital.
Br. Thaddeus Frost, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE