Embodying Mercy 


All of today’s readings focus on mercy. Jonah lacks mercy because he expects a kind of perfection from the Ninevites—and probably from himself—that does not accommodate human weakness. God, however, is different. He says the Ninevites do not even know their right hand from their left, that is, are not even fully aware of their own sin. Yet God sees their general attitude of repentance and is full of mercy and affection for them. God invites Jonah, and all of us, into this attitude of mercy.

When I was younger, I thought I would have to become an ideally virtuous person in order to be pleasing to God and to embody God’s love. Thinking that way about sanctification though only sets us up for blind spots about ourselves. Much better is to understand that God works through and in me—and through and in everyone else—even as I remain a mix of wholeness and brokenness, gifted and sinful. Like a cracked earthen vessel, we are full of light which is the Lord’s light within us, and can let that light shine out in mercy and compassion for others and for ourselves. Jonah is sullen but allowing ourselves to participate in God’s mercy brings only joy.

Jesus in the Our Father prayer asks us to pray for one another out of this attitude that we are both in need of forgiveness and capable of embodying mercy and love. By staying in touch with that interior access to divine mercy, we can appropriate and own it for ourselves and also offer it to others in their concrete, human, lovable conditions.