Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016.06.12 The Quality Of Mercy


May God give you:
For every challenge, Wisdom;
For every stony path, Strong Shoes;
For every storm, a Rainbow;
For every hardship, Support;
For every journey, Faithful Companions;
For every concern, Hope;
For every blessing, Gratitude;
For  every prayer, an Answer;

And may all life's seasons bring God's
        gift of MERCY to
You and those you love.
 (Based in part from an Irish Blessing. Michele Aronica, RSM)

Last week I was on retreat at Mercy Center in Madison, CT.  This blessing was framed and in each room. I awoke to it very morning and its truth sank into me. This is all I want and hope for: not that stony paths, challenges, hardship and all the rest will bypass me, but that I will have gifts to help me keep going, especially faithful companions and Hope. Hope, to me is the greatest of the Big Three spiritual gifts: faith, hope, and love. (St. Paul thought love, but he might've been wrong, ya know!)

  When I told someone that I'd been on a silent retreat for a week, she said, "A whole week?"—followed by, "You and Dick?" Some things are quite astonishing. I told her we weren't rigid about it, and that we convened each evening to sit outside and chat, or just sit and gaze at the natural beauty of the sound stretching before us and all the glorious trees that adorn the Mercy property. I added: "You know the silence, after a while, becomes a friend, one whose comfort you begin to appreciate like an over-soul." (Over-soul is a Jewish descriptor of the affects of a true Sabbath rest.)

Mercy is different from compassion or sympathy, or even empathy. Mercy has the power to soothe, season, or soften all life's aches and pains, all our passions, strivings, even the great and righteous judgments we make, and the social justice causes for which we labor.  James, the most practical book in the New Testament, makes a big deal about the unity of faith and deeds—one no good without the other. Yet even James reminds us, almost casually, "For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; . . ."    And btw: ". . . mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13b)  [Italics mine]

Biblically, mercy is translated as divine lovingkindness toward all living things. In Hebrew it's chesed, and in Greek eleo, both rooted in the word which means guts or womb (racham and splagchnizoai)".  I do so love words.

And from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, 
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.
By all means, do not forget to be merciful with yourself, please. Godde will assist.