Mercy, Freely Given and Received

During a recent process meditation that I was participating in with the students here, I was struck by the idea of mercy. Deacon Greg recently posted that Francis’ papacy is summed up in just one word: mercy.

And so I have been contemplating mercy and I realized that I can often forgive people pretty easily, or at least after a short while when the initial sting wears off. Even people that I have held grudges against, sometimes for extended periods of time, I can find myself wanting to forgive them. At minimum, I have the desire FOR the desire to forgive, even if I don’t do that particularly well.

But asking for forgiveness is another matter. It seems that I often just hope that lousy things I do to others I often hope just will float away. And perhaps those resentments need healing, need repairing–or at least need admitting.

Perhaps fear is at the heart of this. Because fear keeps us in desolation thinking there is no hope for forgiveness. And don’t we, in our deepest fears, admit that we fear that God will not forgive us. But in essence, God has ALREADY forgiven us! So our worries are simply wasted energy.

And we waste more energy by withholding our need to be forgiven by others, not merely by God. We fear that they too will not forgive us–and what anxiety that might indeed provoke!

But accepting our plea for forgiveness is not up to us, nor does it reflect on us. It is up to the other to receive our request and to give it assent or denial. The truth is that a denial says much more about their hurt and their ability to be forgiving than it does about us who ask for the forgiveness. If someone doesn’t want to forgive me, then I have no power to make them. But I have done my part in the asking.

And this is what God asks of us in confession. We need to ask in order to feel forgiven–to experience forgiveness that is always freely offered. To remind ourselves of what it is like to be forgiven, so that we too might offer forgiveness to someone else, perhaps someone who we might think doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

Because after all, in the dark places in our souls, we often feel that what we do is in fact, unforgivable and God reminds us that this is balderdash!

Pope Francis is continuing to offer mercy —to the poor, to those on the margins, to the abused, to all. Mercy is a tone, if you will. It’s an attitude that needs to be cultivated by each one of us. To be merciful, we indeed need to have significant experiences of being forgiven. It’s there that we have much to learn about how we might enter into the experience of being more forgiving and how we might be more open to asking for forgiveness from others and from God.

That tone, where we come more humbly, less sure of ourselves and more aware of the times we don’t always get it right.

Because in that tone we find God.

Forgiving and loving us.

And calling us to love one another…a bit better than we think we can.

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