Have mercy me on me Lord in your faithful Love Psalm 51: 1-2
Love and mercy are two divine attributes whose importance in the lives of human being cannot be over emphasized. If there are two things we need in the world today more than anything, they are love and mercy. If there are two things in short supply in our world today, they are love and mercy. Little wonder then that the Holy Father, Pope Francis declared 2016 as the Year of Mercy, with the theme: “Merciful like the father.” Expectedly, some commentators argued that the Pope attempted to substitute the true nature of God as love for another attribute of God, namely: mercy. Love and mercy are not two contrary religious concepts but complementary divine attributes. They are like two sides of the same coin. In this lecture we shall discuss the two attributes of God within Biblical context and see the challenges they pose to us as followers of Christ in the contemporary time.
Mercy as God’s Nature
Holman Bible Dictionary, defined mercy as “Characteristic and action that comes from the very nature of God. On the human level is best described as one’s consideration of the condition and needs of his fellowman. The Holy Bible is unmistakably clear that the nature of God as revealed in the Old Testament is that of “mercy” cf. Ex. 34: 6-9, Psalm 145: 8-9 etc. The mercy of God endures for ever cf. Psalm 86: 5; 103: 17; 136 :1, 145: 9. His mercy extends to heaven Psalm 57: 10. He shows mercy to those who fear him Psalm 103 : 11. Mercy is for those He wants Psalm 33: 19.
While declaring the year of mercy, Pope Francis claims that Christ is the face of the mercy of God.
1. In his words Mtt. 5: 7, 45.
2. In his actions : Luke 7:11-16 ( Raising the son of the widow of Nain)
3. In his proverbs cf. Luke 10: 25-37, (Good Samaritan) Luke 15: 12-32 (Prodigal Son).
4. In his judgment John 8: 1-11.
God’s Nature of Love:
The concept of the love of God is deeply rooted in the Bible, Biblical love has God as its object, true motivator, and origin, God is love cf. 1 John 4: 7- 16. For us we are expected to put on love, Col. 3:14.
We are to make it our goal cf. 1 Cor. 14: 1. Love is the parameter for judging worship and sincerity 1. Cor. 13: 1-3. It is the greatest of all the virtues 1 Cor. 13: 13.
Why Love is essential
For Apostle John, love is the test of authentic Disciples of Christ, cf. 1. John 2: 3: 11.
Jesus taught his followers even to love their enemies Mtt. 5: 44; Luke 6: 27, 35. Love is a gift of the Holy Spirit cf. Gal. 5:23.
Five Practical Ways to put Love and Mercy to Practice
1. Read Scriptural Passages about love and Mercy
The Bible is both the word of God and the story of God in time. It recounts the history of God’s self revelation to man and his dealings with men, detailing his merciful love and provision for humanity. If we hope to imbibe his divine attributes of love and mercy we must get ourselves acquitted with his word.
2. Perform the Works of Mercy:
Faith without work is dead, we must rise up to the challenge of doing work of mercy as directed in his words cf. James 1: 22. There are spiritual works of mercy which include: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, comforting the afflicted, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead. Corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and also to bury the dead.
3. Meditate on the Lives of the Saints:
The Saints are those who have been numbered by ecclesiastical authorities as people already among the blessed in heaven. There are many of them whose lives epitomize love and Mercy, the names of Mother Theresa readily come to mind, St. Francis of Asisi, St. Vincent De Paul, St. Peter Clever, St. Elizabeth of Hungry etc.
4. Forgive those who have hurt you:
We cannot live the year of mercy without forgiving those who hurt us. We forgive not only because we must based on Christ’s injunction cf. Matt. 18:22-25 but because we love God and we want to imitate him and be like He is.
5. Merciful Love in the Family:
The family is a domestic Church, once each family experiences mercy and love this naturally will flow to the larger society. The family unit is the best level to instill a sense of love and mercy on young ones. Once this is achieved each person will carry the virtues to whatever level he/she reaches in life. Mercy and love are also two indispensable factors that will keep marriage and family life together for long.
Christ charges us that we must be merciful like the Father and 1 John 4: 8 says “Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.” It is incontrovertible therefore that love and mercy are imperative for us as true disciples of Christ. There is much suffering in the world in the present time because humanity is lacking in the virtues of love and mercy, you and I are called by Christ to make a difference in the world.
Being the text of a talk presented to Catholic Post Graduate Students Association, Obafemi Awolowo University chapter on 21st October, 2016 at Philip/Anna Youth Center, Ibokun, Osun State.