Meaning of Mercy

From Br. Joseph —

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

The word mercy is one of those loaded words with many meanings and connotations. Unfortunately, the modern use of this word tends to focus only on its association with pity or clemency. By checking the dictionary, we find far deeper and richer connotations than mere clemency (although this is an important component) that have serious implications for Christians. From dictionary.com:

  1. Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency.

  2. A disposition to be kind and forgiving: a heart full of mercy.

  3. Something for which to be thankful; a blessing: It was a mercy that no one was hurt.

  4. Alleviation of distress; relief: Taking in the refugees was an act of mercy.

As we see, the first one is the primary use of the word today, but it is the other three that cause us to open our hearts and reach out to others, to love others.

This richer, four-fold definition opens deeper meaning to the Trinitarian prayer at the beginning of Mass when we say, “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” Are we not asking for all four components of mercy—clemency and forgiveness for our sins, to give thanks, and for help in our suffering?

And again in the Jesus’ Prayer, the word mercy is the very hinge, in all of its meanings, between Jesus Christ and us:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The four-fold meaning of the word mercy takes on new dimensions when encountered in Scripture. Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:13, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Stop and take a moment to let that sink in. Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice… Why would He say that?

When, where, how do you give mercy? Who do you give mercy?

And so we implore Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us…

Recognize mercy in your life.

Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us…