“What is mercy” by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

    1. What Is MercyLuke 6:36 reads, “Be merciful therefore, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” What type of mercy is this? We note first of all that Jesus is speaking to his disciples as can be seen in 6:20. Thus, Jesus having called his own, lifted his eyes towards them (his disciples). There was a need for him to give a blue-print on how his disciples had to live. In some sense this was to be a rule book for all those around him. The command came to the disciples after Jesus had indicated on how their behaviour had to be towards their enemies, “Love your enemies.” And as the Scripture passage proceeds, there is suddenly the invocation of the Father, who in this case is said to be merciful and as such, the disciples of Jesus need to image their Father who is merciful. We are thus in issues of relationships and paternity and as such this mercy should be understood from a familial perspective.

    2. God, as Father, is seen to be loving his children unconditionally, even when they make mistakes and commit the worst of crimes. Indeed, his love endures forever (Cf. Psalm 136:1). This love becomes evident in the loving mercy that every parent has for his/her children. The Jewish sense of this mercy is that which one feels in the depths of his being for another. It also refers to tender mercies which is something that a woman feels in her bowel area when showing concern for her child. God loves us in spite of ourselves and he has committed himself to a relationship with us. In this sense it is be beyond his nature to divorce himself from us. No parent can really disown a child. He can do so only with words, but the fact remains that there remains an unbreakable bond between them. There is something that a child shares deeply with a parent and this can never be undone or wished away. Even if a parent may seem to have given up on the wayward behaviour of the child, nevertheless, in the depths of his or her being, he still harbours some hope that there will be a change, there will be a turnaround, the child will turn from his wayward ways.

    3. The invitation to be merciful as the Father, in fact, finds fuller treatment in the same Gospel of Luke in the story of the Loving and merciful Father (Luke 15:11-31). The son, having demanded his share of the inheritance and gone away and indulging in wayward behaviour, did not lose his son-ship, nor did the Father resign paternity. On the contrary, upon the return of the son, the Father was overcome with great joy and did not ask for much explanations. He proclaimed a feast and welcomed the lost son into the fold. There is no doubt that in this famous parable we are given a glimpse of the mercy of God which only desires what is best for us. We are children of the Father and he is the one who gives us his mercy.

    4. The Holy Father intends that we go back to the roots of our faith and to really consider why Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died for our sins and all sins can be forgiven. The society we live in, even though seemingly sexually permissive, can sometimes be very hard on people who have failed in the sixth commandment. Pope Francis invites us to look at the wider picture. He invites us to be aware that the mercy of God belongs to all people who request it precisely because Jesus has merited for us so great a salvation. Sin does not have the last word. In fact, we Christians need not be pitied because Jesus himself has afforded us his mercy. As has been always mentioned above, we fail to open our hands and receive this mercy. Further to this, the Church herself has not proclaimed this message well or at best has proclaimed the message of mercy in a muffled manner.