The thing about mercy…

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 02, 2016

…is that you have to want it. It is an offer. You have to be willing to reorder your loves to receive it.

Pope Francis has increased the emphasis on mercy which was begun by John Paul II, and that’s a good thing. But at times we lose sight of the fact that the purpose of God’s mercy is to change our hearts so that we might experience His love.

This is an invitation which can be accepted only by an inner conversion. The prophet Hosea described what mercy looks like when we consider it from the point of view of our own human responsibility:

Ephraim was a trained heifer that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke, Judah must plow, Jacob must harrow for himself. Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain salvation upon you. [Hos 10:11-12]

We experience mercy as contrition—a grateful recognition of unworthiness in the midst of unconditional love. God takes the initiative, but we must respond. By an interior movement of the will (made possible but not forced by grace), we open the previously uncultivated ground of our being to the rain—and the reign—of God.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jun. 02, 2016 2:30 PM ET USA

    Likewise in the story of Joseph and his brothers, Joseph first tries his brothers to see if there is repentance in them. It is when Judah, the brother who originally suggested to kill him, offers himself for the good of another brother, Benjamin, that Joseph finally reveals the mercy that he was eager to give.