October 1, 2014
By Father William Muench
Today, we continue our journey through the Beatitudes. The next one that Jesus includes in his Sermon of the Mount is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
We know that Jesus was merciful and has shown his mercy to us often. The Gospels are filled with Jesus’ mercy.
His most memorable miracles were done to show mercy. There is a story you may remember in the Gospel: Jesus comes upon a funeral procession of the son of a widow. Jesus realizes that this man’s death will leave his mother, the widow, helpless. So he steps forward and brings the man back to life.
We are called upon as Christians in this beatitude to be merciful so that we will experience God’s mercy in our lives. So what are we to do to be that merciful person?
Jesus makes it clear for us in his story of the Last Judgment in the 25th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. The story demonstrates how important Jesus considers these acts of mercy.
In this story, Jesus associates the acts of mercy with the Last Judgment. The Gospel says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by the angels of heaven, he will sit upon the royal throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. Then he will separate them into two groups, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will welcome the good into the Kingdom.”
The Gospel tells us why the good are accepted into the Kingdom. For many, this Gospel story is a bit of a surprise – they would have thought of other reasons to enter the Kingdom.
Jesus spells out his reasons. “Come. You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in person and you came to visit me.”
Being merciful wins us the Kingdom.
And then Jesus goes on to show us why these acts of mercy should be so important to us. So, the story continues, “The just will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you drink? When did we welcome you away from home or clothe you in your nakedness. When did we visit you when you were ill or in prison? The King will answer them: I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.’”
Jesus identifies himself with everyone we touch or help with mercy. Simply, consider that. This is truly something spectacular in faith.
Consider it – we are encouraged to see Jesus in all those who may need our help. As a matter of fact, each time we might consider doing something hurtful or nasty we should see Jesus in the other.
The Last Judgment story goes on to challenge us not to omit mercy when needed. Again – we must recognize Jesus in that situation – Jesus considers omission seriously.
One other act of mercy that is essential to the life of a Christian is forgiveness. Again, our model is Jesus who stressed mercy and forgiveness in so many ways. He asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him.
Failure to forgive others is a major human problem. Holding grudges is all too common. Failure to forgive routinely tears apart families, neighborhoods, and even nations.
We pray to God that we may be able to forgive as much as we are forgiven.