Habitual Acts of Mercy

Reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Carolyn Townes, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our September 5th newsletter


hands-compassion“So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (Exodus 32:14)

One definition of mercy is: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Grace is receiving what you don’t deserve; while mercy is not receiving what you do deserve. This Sunday’s readings all speak of the grace and mercy of God in the midst of undeserving. The Israelites who idolized a golden calf in place of God who rescued them from slavery. David the King, who committed adultery then murder to cover his sin. The Apostle Paul, a persecutor of the early followers of Jesus. The Lost Son, who squandered an inheritance he was not entitled to. All these people did not deserve mercy; they deserved to be punished for their iniquitous and criminal behavior. And yet, we see the boundless mercy of our God.

In today’s world where vengeance and violence abounds, acts of mercy are certainly not the ideal. Even random acts of kindness are only “random” and not habitual. Are we living a life so rushed that we have forgotten how to stop and take a breath? The people in the readings were living lives where God was an afterthought; until they came to themselves. Something had to happen in order for them to cry out to God for his mercy and then repent of their wrongs. Unfortunately that is our story today. Until there is a mass shooting or a natural disaster, we have forgotten that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

As we commemorate this anniversary of one of our nation’s most horrific tragedies, I remember all too clearly the atmosphere surrounding the events. We were all ready to rally and rescue or recover. Our churches were filled with people crying out to God, trying to make sense of what had happened. I ministered in at least three churches at the time in New York City and witnessed the brokenness first hand. I cried with them, trying to come to grips with the unbearable pain of loss and grief. Like those people in the readings, I too had to come to myself, realizing that perhaps I wasn’t as merciful as I was called to be.

Where in your life are you called to be merciful rather than punitive? Where can you lessen the violence in your daily life? In the way you speak to others? Toward the homeless or those on the margins of society? Instead of waiting for a natural or human-made disaster, how about practicing a habitual and deliberate act of mercy. It is an act that you will never regret.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
FAN Board Member
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

Suggested Action:
This week, make a conscious effort to show mercy and kindness, not once randomly, but twice or three times intentionally.

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Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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