Reflections on Mercy throughout the ages

Saint Gregory of Naziance (330-390), Bishop, Doctor of the Church
On love of the poor, 4-6
The first and the greatest of the commandments, that on which the Law and the prophets are based (Mt 22:40), is love, which it seems to me brings its greatest proof in love of the poor, in tenderness and compassion for one’s neighbor. Nothing gives as much honor to God as mercy, for nothing is more like him. “Mercy and truth go before him,” (Ps 89:15) and he prefers mercy to judgment (Hos 6:6). Nothing attracts the kindness of the Friend of humankind as much as kindness towards human beings (Wis 1:6) ; his reward is just, he weighs and measures mercy.

We must open our heart to all who are poor and to all who are unhappy, whatever their suffering might be. That is the meaning of the commandment which requires us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15) Since we are also human beings, is it not right and proper for us to be kind towards those who are like us ?

Saint Cesarius of Arles (470-543), Monk and Bishop
Sermon 26,5
Christ, that is to say, heavenly mercy, comes to the door of your house every day, not only spiritually to the door of your soul, but also materially to the door of your house. For every time a poor person approaches your house, it is without any doubt Christ who is coming, he who said : "As often as you did it for one of these little ones, you did it for me." So don’t harden you heart ; give a little money to Christ, from whom you want to receive the Kingdom. Give a piece of bread to him, from whom you hope to receive life. Welcome him into your home, so that he might welcome you into his paradise. Give him alms, so that in return he might give you eternal life.

What audacity to want to reign in heaven with him to whom you refuse to give alms in this world ! If you receive him during this earthly journey, he will welcome you into his heavenly happiness ; if you despise him here in your homeland, he will turn his eyes away from you in his glory. A Psalm says : "In your city, Lo rd, you despise their image." (Ps 72:20 Vulg.) If we despise those who are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) in our city, that is to say, in this life, we must fear being rejected in his eternal city. So be merciful here below… Thanks to your generosity, you will hear that wonderful word said to you : "Come. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you"

Saint Bernard (1091-1153), Cistercian monk and Doctor of the Church
Homilies on the Song of Songs, no. 61,3-5
So where can our fragility find rest and security if not in the Savior’s wounds ? … They pierced his hands, his feet, and his side with a thrust of a lance. Through these gaping holes, I can taste the honey from the rock (Ps 81:17) and the oil that flows from the very hard rock, which is to say, "Taste and see how good the Lord is." (Ps 34:9) He had plans of peace (cf. Jer 29:11), and I did not know it. "For ’who has known the mind of the Lord ? Or who has been his counselor ?’" (Rom 11:34) The nail that enters his flesh has become for me a key that opens to me the mystery of his plans.

How could we not see through these openings ? The nails and the wounds cry out that truly, in the person of Christ, God reconciles the world to himself. Iron pierced his being and touched his heart so that he is no longer ignorant of how to suffer my weaknesses. The secret of his heart is laid bare in the wounds of his body ; we see revealed the great mystery of his kindness, the merciful tendern ess of our God, "the Dayspring who visited us from on high." (Lk 1:78) And how could this tenderness not be manifested in his wounds ? How could you show more clearly than by your wounds that you, Lord, are gentle and compassionate and very merciful, since there is no greater love than to give one’s life (Jn 15:13) for those who are condemned to death ?

So all my merit is the Lord’s mercy, and I shall not be lacking in merit so long as mercy is not lacking in him. If God’s mercies multiply, my merits will be many. But what will happen if I have to reproach myself with many faults ? "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." (Rom 5:20) And if "the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting," I for my part "will sing forever the favors of the Lord." (Ps 103:17 ; 89:2) Is that my righteousness ? Lord, I shall remember your righteousness alone, for it is my righteousness, since you became righteousness of God for me (Rom 1:17).

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Dominican Tertiary, Doctor of the Church, Co-patroness of Europe
Dialogue, 18
God told me : “No one can escape from my hands. For I am who am (Ex 3:14), and you, you are not of yourselves ; you are only insofar as you have been made by me. I am the creator of all things that have a part in being, but not of sin, which is not, and which was thus not made by me. And because it is not in me, it is not worthy of being loved. A creature only offends me because it loves what it must not love, sin… It is impossible for human beings to go outside of me ; they either abide in me through the force of justice, which punishes their faults, or else they abide in me, protected by my mercy. So open the eye of your intelligence and look at my hand ; you will see that I am telling you the truth.”

Then, opening the eye of the spirit so as to obey the Father who is so great, I saw the whole universe enclosed in that divine hand. And God told me : “My daughter, see now and know that nothing can escape me. Everyone here is held by justice or by mercy, because they are mine, created by me, and I love them infinitely. No matter how wicked they might be, I will have mercy on them because of my servants ; I will hear the request that you brought before me with so much love and suffering”…

Then my soul, as if drunk and outside of itself in the ever greater ardor of its desire, felt at one and the same time blessed and in pain. Blessed through the union it had had with God, tasting his joy and his goodness, wholly plunged into his mercy. In pain because of seeing the offense done to such great goodness.

Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Religious
Small Diary, p. 163 (1937)
Oh my God, most Holy Trinity, I want to adore your mercy through each breath of my being, each beat of my heart, each beat of my pulse. I want to be entirely transformed into your mercy and thus to be a living reflection of you, Lord. May the greatest of your divine attributes, your unfathomable mercy, be poured out onto my neighbor through my soul and through my heart.

Help me, Lord, so that my eyes will be merciful, so that I never suspect or judge according to appearances, but that I discern the beauty in my neighbor’s soul and that I come to his help. Help me, Lord, so that my ear will be merciful, so that I bend to the needs of my neighbor and do not remain indifferent to his pain and groaning. Help me, Lord, so that my tongue is merciful, so that I never say anything bad about my neighbor, but that I have a word of consolation and forgiveness for each person. Help me, Lord, so that my hands are merciful and filled with good works, so that I know how to do good to my neighbor and to take upon myself the heaviest and most displeasing tasks. Help me, Lord, so that my feet are merciful, so that I hasten to help my neighbor while overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is to serve my neighbor.

Help me, Lord, so that my heart is merciful, so that I feel all my neighbor’s suffering. I will not refuse to give my heart to anyone. I will sincerely frequent even those of whom I know that they will abuse of my kindness. And as for me, I will lock myself into the most merciful heart of Jesus. I will remain silent about my own suffering. May your mercy rest in me, Lord.

Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir WakoK, HARTOUM, Sudan, APRIL 25, 2006
Easter Message Pleads for Reconciliation in Troubled Country
"Last year we celebrated the Easter of forgiveness and reconciliation," said Cardinal Zubeir Wako in his message reported by the Catholic Information Service for Africa. "Like Jesus, we still carried with us and in us the scars of several years of war, oppression and misery, with the accompanying frustration, anger and bitterness. This year we should push further on the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are acts of courage and freedom. Our society, our communities and families are heavily marked with cruelty, violence, revenge, tribalism, corruption, selfishness, and disregard for the poor and the weak. It needs courageous and truly free people who choose deliberately to swim against the current to scatter the seeds of understanding and friendship among our people."
Cardinal Zubeir Wako urged Christians to fix their gaze on the risen Lord, who stands before them with the nail and lance marks on his body.
"People, some of whom could be called very respectable, made those marks," he said. "They were cruel, unjust, inhuman, arrogant, ignorant and really bad people, without any fear of God or respect for human beings. You might want to describe those who have hurt you, and perhaps yourself, in similar terms."
“Jesus, in that torn and lacerated body, had a heart which none of his torturers could touch” Cardinal Zubeir Wako said. "That heart remained what it had always been : a heart full of infinite goodness, compassion, mercy and love," he observed. "From that heart he asks us to relay to all who have done us wrong the prayer he offered for those who were crucifying him : ’Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’"

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