Matthew 5: 7
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
We are of course to show mercy if for no other reason than because we have been shown mercy and are duty bound to pass it on. James has it in his letter “Judgement is without mercy to one that has not shown mercy”. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us to forgive as we are forgiven, and Jesus’ parables often revolve around the exercise and practice of mercy, and indeed we ask God in his mercy to receive our prayers, for we can only hope to have them answered in his merciful love for us.
So this Beatitude may seem startlingly obvious and on one level it is but it goes much deeper. More technical linguistics I’m afraid but the Aramaic word translated eventually into English as mercy is actually one of those words it’s impossible to translate as it has manifold meanings and nuances. It can best be described as meaning far more than sympathy or feeling sorry for someone’s plight. It means get right inside the other’s skin and see the situation through their eyes, think with their brain and feel with their feelings. It is not pity it is not kindness it is to lovingly understand.
During the Peninsular War one of Napoleon’s generals said he could not understand Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) Napoleon told him that until he did understand he was no good to him or the army for only by understanding the man could he hope to defeat him. We cannot condemn what we do not understand and when we fully understand we cannot condemn but only judge with mercy.
We seek to see how others see the World.
A Christmas story tells of a man who did not share his wife’s faith and refused to attend the Watchnight service. As held the door open for her and the family to go out a small bird disturbed by the unexpected light and activity late at night flew into the house towards the light. Quickly the man went into the living room to usher the bird out again but only succeeded in shooing it into the curtains by the window. The bird became fast in the material and flapped wildly trying to escape the man as you do told it not to panic he would get some scissors and cut it free but when he returned from the kitchen the exhausted bird still struggled and di do all the more as he cut the threads holding its feet. Just as he freed the bird alas it died in his hand terrified and exhausted.
Upset by the vents the man wailed why didn’t you calm down didn’t you understand I would have rescued you? No of course you didn’t because you are a bird and I am a human if only I could have become a bird for a short while and told you were safe. As he took the bird’s lifeless body out the front door the Church bells began to ring to tell of Christmas Day and as he heard he understood just as he wanted the bird to know God had wanted us to know. Man cannot become a bird but God can and did become human so that by his mercy we would know
This Blessing could well be interpreted as “Blessed is one who can get completely inside the other’s head to understand the reasons why they do as they do for the one that does this shall find others prepared to do the same for them. They will know that that is what God in Jesus has done for all.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, help us to understand others, help us to forgive as we are forgiven. May we not hold the debts of others against them, but show your merciful love in action.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,