Mercy is love in action

spring borderLast Sunday, I listened to Luke’s version of Jesus’ passion and death. The words that struck me most profoundly were, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” So spoke Jesus while being murdered; while dying an excruciating death which he didn’t deserve, his prayer is one of forgiveness. How petty I felt in my failure to forgive hurt feelings or slights to my family. How can I justify holding on, ruminating, feeling “righteous” anger, when my wounds are so inconsequential compared to his?

Jesus’ exhortation to us to forgive is not simply for the good of others. Forgiveness, he knows and tries to teach us, benefits us even more. We heal when we forgive others. We grow and discover the joy and happiness we thought someone stole from us.

I know myself. I know I’ll continue to feel umbrage when someone, in my perception, wrongs me. Even more so when they hurt my loved ones. But I hope, through this Lent and the Jubilee Year, I can learn the lessons of mercy that are available to us. May every Good Friday remind me, as I ponder Christ’s suffering, how very small my suffering is and how, with forgiveness, I can reduce it even further.

So how am I doing on forgiving? It’s a process, not a one-time decision. A few recommendations that help me:

  • We should acknowledge the anger and hurt we feel, at least to ourselves. If possible, we should voice it calmly right away to the person who hurt us.
  • Don’t continue to “lick the wound.” Dogs make their sores larger by doing this, and so do we when we dwell or obsess on them. Practice “thought stopping” when you find yourself doing this and instead—
  • Pray for the person who hurt you. Place them in God’s care. Remind yourself you want to be a forgiver.

Here are a few more quotes on mercy and forgiveness from people wiser than I:

Allen Hunt in Everyone Needs to Forgive Somebody:

  • Learn to forgive the small things—with friends, family, or coworkers. Be a person of grace. Don’t dwell on the hurts. Recognize you are still prone to mistakes as you become the-best-version-of-yourself, just as others are.
  • Make a conscious decision to forgive. Resolve today you will be a forgiver. Those who forgive benefit from a better immune system; lower blood pressure; better mental health; lower anger, anxiety, and depression; and enjoy more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships than those unable to forgive.
  • Perform an act of kindness. First do it for anyone. Next week, perform a kind act for someone who has injured you. Being kind to someone who has taken advantage of you prevents you from feeling resentful and can also change his or her heart.
  • Write a letter to someone who has hurt you very much. You may choose to mail it or not, but writing the letter is an important first step toward your healing and the release of the power the person holds over your heart. Express the specific hurt and that you forgive the person.


Fr. Peter Siamoo:

  • Each family member, and therefore each Christian, should seek to reconcile with all the family members, regardless of the magnitude of the hurt, or who was right or wrong. We know that there are some family members who do not talk to each other. Some have been like this for years. The pope’s intention is that this Jubilee Year should not end while leaving this ungraced state of the family members unchanged.
  • Develop devotion and a habit of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. ( ) Read the promises which our Lord gave to St. Faustina Kowalska. Our Lord said to her as she writes in her diary, “It should be of no concern to you how anyone else acts; you are to be My living reflection, through love and mercy. … As for you, be always merciful toward other people, and especially toward sinners.”
  • Extend God’s mercy to anyone who needs it, anyone who has hurt you at any time of your life, whether that person is alive or dead. Forgive without any condition.
  • Be humble enough to ask for forgiveness from those whom you have hurt in any way. If they don’t accept your apology it is not your problem, it is their problem, just pray for them that they may discover the beauty of forgiveness and the joy and peace that come from it so that they may have enough courage to forgive.
  • Reach out to the family and group members whom you know are struggling with forgiveness. Seek to be the reason and agent of family reconciliation, peace, and prayer.
  • Be active in the ministry to the poor and vulnerable in your community to extend God’s mercy and love to them.


Pope Francis:

  • Mercy is not only an action of the Father; it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. Let go of the hurt, entrust it to the Lord and from the forgiving heart sincerely pray for that person.
  • Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.



And perhaps two of the simplest quotes, which encompass the others:

  • Mercy is love in action.   – Fr. Donald Calloway MIC
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7


Thank you for welcoming my thoughts—and other authors’ wisdom—into your email and your lives throughout Lent. I hope you’ve enjoyed and grown from at least one of these writings.

Happy, blessed Easter!





Spiritual Works of Mercy

Beautiful MercyLast week I quoted from Beautiful Mercy, a collection of authors brought together by Matthew Kelly, about the Corporal Works of Mercy that exhort us to care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned, and dead.

I suspect every one of us could practice one of the following Spiritual Works of Mercy daily, and our efforts would bring healing to our relationships. Parents, particularly, are constantly given chances to act with mercy for their children’s sakes as they instruct the ignorant or correct sinners. And, oh my, does anyone with siblings or coworkers not have to bear wrongs patiently sometimes? What teen doesn’t need counsel when the human weaknesses of authority figures cause them to doubt? Every marriage can benefit from both parties being willing to forgive offenses willingly and quickly! We struggle to comfort the afflicted as we walk with our friends through their illnesses and heartbreaks. The older we get, the more of each there seems to be. And how do we manage all this when so much is beyond our control? Sometimes all we can do, while at the same time the very greatest work we can do, is pray for the living and the dead.

By now these long posts probably seem daunting and are easy to put off for later. Instead, please read just one of the following each day and ponder the wisdom of the quotes.

Instruct the ignorant (unknowing, unaware)

  • Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
  • Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. – Pope Blessed Paul VI
  • Instructing the ignorant aims to help each person find his or her role in this great story of salvation, giving him or her meaning and purpose—and ultimately a mission to do the same for others. – Sarah Swafford

Counsel the doubtful

  • To counsel means to assist someone in the act of deciding, not just to give vague or generic advice. Giving counsel to the doubtful is that work which helps the undecided to come to a good and upright decision rooted in the call to holiness and the goal of attaining Heaven by God’s grace. – Msgr. Charles Pope
  • We do not need a degree in theology or catechetics to counsel the doubtful. We all know that some of the most convincing people of faith have been the simplest individuals we’ve known. They just love God and their neighbor and live straight from the heart. … God doesn’t need us to defend him, but these hurting doubters do need our forbearance. People should be able to say of us: “If your God is anything like you, I want to know him.” – Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Correct sinners

  • Are you a sinner? So am I. That is a good place to begin. – Matthew Kelly
  • Whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:20
  • The key is to recover what it means to be merciful in our communication of truth. Are we patient and self-sacrificing with those who need to hear the truth? Are we courteous and do we avoid a confrontational style that will easily lead to closed hearts and minds? Do we recognize our own weakness and sin in humility? Are you prepared to gently and reverently reveal what God has done in your life? Are you deeply aware of your own need for a savior? Love builds a bridge over which truth can pass. – Daniel Burke


Bear wrongs patiently

  • Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
  • On earth, did Jesus act out of a sense of fairness? No, he acted out of love. For love to endure it must be patient, especially in the face of injustice. – Matthew Kelly
  • The wounds we have received didn’t come about overnight, and the healing won’t take place overnight either. It takes time, perseverance, and determination. … Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, be at peace. The only sin God won’t forgive is the one you will not ask forgiveness for. – Matt Fradd

Forgive offenses willingly

  • The Our Father is an incredibly powerful prayer. Pray it slowly, and let the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” sink deep into your heart. – Matthew Kelly
  • Mercy is required when we are faced with the inexcusable and tempted to declare those offenses unforgivable. When we experience the scandalous, unjust, lavish, outrageous mercy of God at the depth of our being, it will utterly transform us. Our attempts to hold on to past grievances and harden our hearts to those who have caused us injury will seem to be mere comedy. – Fr. James Mallon
  • While forgiveness is a decision, an act of the will, it is rarely an event. For many of us, forgiveness is a process. First, a person has to realize that he has been hurt. Second, since mercy is rooted in justice, one needs to weigh what the other person “owes” him. Third, he or she is called to make this one decision: “While justice demands that you give me what you owe me, I will not make you pay me back. I release you from your debt.” You may have to repeat this process many times for the same offence. But each time you do, you will become more and more free, and you will become more and more an image of Jesus Christ himself, who forgives our offenses willingly. – Fr. Mike Schmitz

Comfort the afflicted

  • Blessed be…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4
  • In the midst of a sin-saturated world, people need to know that they matter, that their pain matters, that they are seen. … What a difference the presence of a comforter can make. … Nothing makes us more effective ministers of comfort than having suffered ourselves. Not one of your tears of pain will be wasted if you allow them to be redeemed in the life of another. God can use every ounce of what you have been through to make this world a better, kinder place. – Lisa Brenninkmeyer
  • To step out of my own needs and my own preoccupation and take notice, and then to move into another’s life with comfort, is not only a revelation of the nature of the universe and the God who freely chose to create it, it is also the key to unlocking God’s mercy in our own lives. – Curtis Martin

Pray for the living and the dead

  • The basic belief is that nothing, neither life nor death, separates us from the love of Christ (see Romans 8:35). Praying for the faithful departed is an expression of great love in Christ. – John Michael Talbot
  • Perhaps one of the greatest joys of heaven will be seeing how much of a difference our prayers made, even the distracted and perfunctory ones. … Our deceased loved ones go to the judgement seat of Christ. And that is worth praying about! How consoling and merciful our prayers must seem to our beloved who have died! – Msgr. Charles Pope


Blessings on your final week of Lent!

Corporal Works of Mercy

Beautiful MercyIn his book, Beautiful Mercy, Matthew Kelly enlists the help of 26 authors to discuss the quality of mercy, particularly organized around the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead) and spiritual works of mercy (instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, correct sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.) He suggests we imagine how the world would be different if everyone practiced just one work of mercy each day. Are you willing to take him up on the challenge?

Here are ideas from his book, and a few suggestions from me (B) for the corporal works of mercy. Next week we can look at the spiritual works.

Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry

  • Give money, adopt a child in a poor country, volunteer at a food pantry, make sandwiches for the homeless, give change to a beggar, take food to a shut in. – Fr. Larry Richards
  • Organize a food drive, start a food pantry at your parish, make dinner for a family in need, make dinner for your family with love, “bring home the bacon” for your family, start a walkathon to provide for the poor. – Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC
  • See if your church, like ours, takes meals to the homeless regularly. Bring a casserole or be one of the servers. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels. – B

Give drink to the thirsty

  • “The Latin word for mercy, misericordia, means ‘a heart which gives itself to those in misery.’” Become a living witness to the well of Christ’s “living water” for others. – Christopher West
  • I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find folks who thirst. A friend who single-parents a child with special needs thirsts for compassion, understanding, and welcome. And often my own family thirst for my care and attention. – Lisa M Hendey
  • Conserve water at home. Consider a donation to organizations that provide safe water to communities; see . – B

Clothe the naked

  • Give your extra clothes to those in need, knit caps for those losing their hair to cancer, extend your Christmas gift lists to buy clothes for those in need. – Dr. Allen R Hunt
  • Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
  • Choose a day annually or seasonally when you simplify your closets and donate the excess to local charities. – B


Shelter the homeless

  • Support groups like Catholic Charities who provide homes for the homeless, volunteer at a homeless shelter. Family must always be home, the shelter for the lonely, disabled, or elderly family members who can no longer care for themselves. Family members should never feel homeless, no matter what their condition. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl
  • Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
  • Work for legislation to help the homeless. – B

Visit the sick

  • There is no substitute for human interaction. You can send a gift, make a phone call, write a letter, even say a prayer, but nothing compares to a smile and a hug. Nothing says “you matter,” “you have dignity,” “you are loved” quite like a personal encounter. – Matthew Kelly
  • Whether they are physically ailing or “sick at heart,” just a visit can be healing…. Just being present and praying is all that is needed. Do not forget about members of your own family who might need a visit. Without being a medical professional, you visited, you healed, and you gave comfort! – Fr. Donald Calloway MIC

Visit the imprisoned – ransom the captive

  • One of the wonderful parts of being in a merciful community is that our fellow community members are able to see things in us that we might not see in ourselves. … gifts, talents… They see our faults too. We help each other stay on the right path when we can. And even in our imperfection, our own brokenness, we can help others heal. Together, and with the grace of God, we are lifted up, let out, set free. – Kerry Weber
  • The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. Luke 4:18
  • Treat a caregiver to a break, whether by babysitting, or sitting with someone’s elderly parent. Volunteer with prison ministry. Look for groups that assist families of prisoners. – B

Bury the dead

  • I have seen the birth of such life in young women who came to the fountain of mercy after suffering from abortion and in young men who came seeking healing after being wounded in the darkness of pornography and addiction. … Yes, it is painful to be at Calvary, yet because there I meet Jesus, the one who is the life and Resurrection, even when I’m there to bury the dead or walk with those who are spiritually dead, I stand there with hope, to carry hope, and to pass on hope. – Mother Olga Yaqob
  • You matter. When everything boils down, that is what this work of mercy—burying the dead—is all about. Looking closely, we see that this work of mercy actually hits home in the most intimate place of our hearts: our deep thirst to know that even our greatest vulnerability—death—doesn’t take away the meaning and purpose of our bodies. Rather, in death, our bodies separated from our souls in the ultimate poverty and powerlessness, await Someone who will come and bring this body back to life. In burying someone we are saying: “You are worth reverencing. You are sacred. And you belong to Christ.” With this act, we surrender to the earthshaking reality of the truth of ourselves, body and soul, and the mad love God has for us. – Sr. Marie Veritas, SV

I’ll close with this quote from Fr. Larry Richards: “Now you might be thinking, ‘OK, OK, I should start to do something.’ But thoughts and good intentions are not enough—you need to turn these thoughts into reality. So what are you going to do? [..]. Let God use you and start to change the world!”


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