The cost of mercy
What does it mean when someone accepts mercy, or asks for forgiveness and receives it? Many people seem to think that mercy is an affront to justice, when in fact it can go hand in hand with it. In human relationships, the showing of mercy can off set the power that an evil, or hurtful action, can have on ones life. Without mercy or forgiveness, the seeds of evil can take deep root in those who are its victims, thus allowing the cycle to continue perhaps for generations. Justice can still be administered, but the element of revenge can be expunged from the mix. For often justice is just a mask for revenge, even when it is done through legal avenues. When this happens, when revenge is present, then the evil done lives on it those who harbor vengeful thoughts. Understandable, for I am human and know how difficult it is to let go of past hurts.
To extend mercy is freeing. The one who is the beneficiary however may not understand it, or accept it. Or if he does, it may take time for the work of mercy to bring up the reality of the evil done, by the wrongdoer. I feel that mercy proffered by one human to another is a sign of grace in the world, a shadow of the divine reality of what mercy really is. Of which I believe, we are all in need of. Not only from those whom we know and love on occasion, but also from God, who is revealed as infinite mercy and love. Mercy does not engender neurotic guilt, but brings out the reality of our human existential condition. One aspect of our situation is that by nature we are self centered; how could it be otherwise? So we are capable of acts towards others that can cause deep pain and anguish and not really be aware of it. For the objectifying of others is more common than normally understood. It is like we are all pawns on a chessboard trying to become Queens and Kings so that we can move others around for our comfort and pleasure.
Sometimes mercy can be understood and its cost in asking and receiving it, when on occasion something hurtful or cruel is done to a loved one; someone central to ones life and existence’, a wife, husband, friend etc. I have experienced this. The reality of the injustice done can cause deep wells of sorrow and suffering and yes guilt in acknowledging responsibility. In fact the deeper the love of another, so is the corresponding need to accept that the act was one freely committed, that no recourse is sought out, no only responsibility taken for what was done in freedom. So the asking for forgiveness is not something lightly undertaken, when love is at the center of the issue. So the asking and the receiving, is both liberating and also purifying, for it must be brought to the light of day, expressed, mercy asked and hopefully received. On the human level, when mercy is received, the relationship deepens and matures on both sides. So mercy trumps justice more often than not, in personal, loving, relationships.
What Peter did in denying Christ, was in some aspects, worse than what Judas committed. So when Jesus asks Peter three times did he love him, perhaps it was something necessary, to take Peter deeper and deeper into what he actually did. For each time Peter answered in the affirmative that he loved the Lord, his yes came from a deeper part of his soul that was being healed by the mercy of Jesus. So yes the deeper the love, the more painful and fruitful, is the asking and the receiving of mercy.
Mercy leads to healing, which can take years to accomplish as maturity takes hold and inner honesty takes deeper root. So mercy is yes a grace, freely given not only by God but also by humans (again I feel a sign of grace active in the world), that is like a leaven, that slowly does its work as we continue on our journey. Perhaps that is what the ‘life review’ is about, that are lived out by those who have a “near death experience”. For we often hurt those whom we have little attachment towards, so in the end, all must be brought to mercy, but on a level so deep that all of our actions that are hurtful, cruel and yes evil, must be brought to light and our hearts and spirits, broken before God’s loving gaze. For while mercy is free, it cost dearly, one that leads to cleansing, healing and ever deeper movement into the very heart of God and the mystery of infinite compassion.