Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Mercy is not safe-distance-or-passing-moment pity, but always up-close-and-personal sympathy.
When I am merciful, which is another way of saying, when I am compassionate or acting with compassion,(1) I, without the need for judgment or the desire to judge, am able to see through the eyes of another. I am able to be as another, inhabiting another person’s life and experience; thinking and feeling as s/he thinks and feels.
And, in keeping with the spiritual principle that what I give, I also (can) receive, to be merciful is to receive mercy.(2)
In my experience, I have discovered that the mercy I receive, sometimes, is from myself. For there have been moments, many, when I have been in the wrong; when I have been wrong. When I, in thought, word, or deed have harmed another. When I, in acknowledging my fault, have found it difficult to forgive myself. At such times, when I have sought to express my sorrow and, where and when possible, to make restitution, and then to seek God’s forgiveness,(3) I have discerned that I, then, am more able to receive God’s forgiveness, and then to forgive myself, to be merciful to me.
(1) The word compassion is derived from com (“with” or “together”) + pati (“to suffer”). To have compassion, therefore, is to be able and willing to share another’s suffering. Thus, it is no surprise that Christians oft refer to Palm Sunday, that annual day of especial commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on a cross, as The Sunday of the (His) Passion.
(2) So, Jesus taught: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6.37-38)
(3) The pattern of seeking forgiveness, first, from the one I have offended, and (only) then from God, I have learned from reflecting on one of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5.23-24; my emphases)
Illustration: The Return of the Prodigal Son, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Note: I consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15.11-32), especially in the father’s actions toward his prodigal younger son, to be an exquisite depiction of mercy; that small word and conjunction “and,” for me, a sign of the extravagance, the prodigality of the father’s outpouring of mercy…
For when the son, realizing his wrongs, went home, his father, always watching and waiting, while (the son) was still far off, (he) saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him…the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate (my emphases)