The Heart of the Gospel

Part 9

Marked By Mercy, Moved By Mercy


The Old Testament Israelites knew they were marked by God's mercy. He had chosen them for His own, and whether they were celebrating His triumph in battle or His enthronement in the temple, the prayer refrain was always the same: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever! (Psalm 106:1)

This awareness of divine mercy also left an imprint on the lives of His chosen ones. The author of the Book of Sirach begins his praise of the elders with the pungent phrase: These were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten. (44:10) And there is no doubt that the Old Covenant also brought forth myriad women moved by mercy, whose holy lives bore witness to the God who is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Ex. 34:6)

At the dawn of the New Covenant there stands Mary, marked by God's mercy from the first moment of her conception. In her great hymn of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, she proclaims that His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation and that the mystery of universal salvation is unfolding precisely because the Lord has remembered His promise of mercy. (cf. Luke 1:50, 54)

Our Lady's awareness of God's mercy likewise moved her to mercy. Scripture provides only brief glimpses into Mary's "mercy life:" assisting Elizabeth, interceding for the young couple at Cana, standing at the foot of the Cross, praying with and for the apostles in the Upper Room. Yet these few examples have inspired Christians through the ages to turn to her whom they confidently invoke as the Mother of Mercy.

The Testament of St. Clare, written at the end of her long religious life, is a hymn to the mercy of God. Clare celebrates the great mercies of the Lord that marked her earthly pilgrimage her birth, her faith, her vocation. She thanks God for mercifully enlightening her heart to do penance after the example of St. Francis and for the unity of her community in the ideal entrusted to them. The Seraphic Mother sees all these blessings (and we sense there are many more that have been left unsaid) as gifts from her Divine Benefactor, the Father of Mercies. (THE TESTAMENT)

But if St. Clare's life was marked by mercy, it was also, both in prayer and in deed, moved by mercy. Counseling her Sisters to love one another with the love of Christ, the Lady Clare urged them to show forth outwardly by their actions the love which they had within them. (THE TESTAMENT) This is what she had done to scale the heights of holiness: loving with the love of the merciful Christ, serving her community's corporal and spiritual needs, making of her prayer a vast "room" of intercession before the Throne of God for all the needs of a suffering world.

In Baptism, we too have been marked by Mercy. Our call to be disciples of Christ obliges us to live a life moved by Mercy. Cultivating a grateful awareness of the "daily mercies" which come to us opens new horizons on how those "daily mercies" can be multiplied and shared with others. We join Our Lady, St. Clare of Assisi and the saints of every place and age in bearing credible witness to the mercy of God, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. His mercy is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people approach it. (Pope Francis, THE FACE OF MERCY, 25) Then we discover, deeply and truly, what Jesus meant when He proclaimed: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Mt. 5:7)