Comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead
How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. […] Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! (Misericordiae Vultus, 15)
The works of mercy, even before setting us in motion to do concrete acts, awaken us to the reality of the misery and pain of our brothers and sisters. Mercy, from the Latin misericordia, means misery lifted up and tenderly brought close to the heart out of a great love for the other. In order to lift up that misery, though, we need first of all to acknowledge it, to see it, and to be moved to compassion by it.
In other words we need our hearts to beat with the Heart of Jesus.
“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” (Mt 14:14)
“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36)
This is a grace to be asked, not something that we gain on our own. “Jesus, give me your heart; give me your eyes so that I can see my brothers and sisters as you see them”.
We need this grace especially when it comes to the spiritual works of mercy. As easy as it is to see the wounds of the body in the physically sick, we struggle to recognize the wounds of the soul, of the psyche, of relationships.
We don’t lose our patience with a person in a wheel chair because they can’t move fast or run. But what about the paralysis of the heart that makes it difficult for my neighbor to be kind, generous, and nice to be around? And don’t we all experience how difficult it is to recognize that there are wounds at the root of what that person did to me, hurting or offending me?
Forgiving offenses and bearing wrongs patiently are works of mercy that involve us in a deep and personal way, because in the face of the injustice received, our wounds take the forefront and the other person simply becomes in our eyes an enemy, not someone in misery and pain themselves.
Where do we go from here? First of all, we need to turn towards the Father and marvel once again, in case we had forgotten it, how much he has forgiven us and how patiently he bears our wrongs. It is humbling, but it is there, in his heart, that we can receive what otherwise we could not give to our brothers and sisters. The works of mercy don’t start from us. They stem directly from God. We are simply channels, and we can give only what we receive.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” (2Cor 1:3-4)
The forgiveness we can give; the patience with which we bear wrongs; the gentleness with which we console the afflicted, instead of running away from them because they are depressing, or because we don’t know how to ‘fix’ their problems: these are the medicine of mercy that God the Healer puts in our very hands, so that we can participate in his work of salvation.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk 4:18-19)
It is a journey, and we need to be patient with ourselves. The difficulty and resistance we encounter are often a sign of our own woundedness. There is no need to run away and hide from God because we feel bad about ourselves. Let us bring our misery to his heart and experience his own mercy and his healing. As this takes place, we will find our hearts overflowing with what they are receiving. Even if right now I don’t seem to be able to say the words: “I forgive you”, I can still ask God for the will to forgive, and I can pray for others, living and dead, placing both myself and them under the care of a Father that desires his children to be united and will fulfill his promise of peace and reconciliation.
- Asking God to grant us the will to forgive someone who hurt us
- Doing something concrete for someone afflicted to show our care and love to them
- Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the living and the dead
- Choose to respond with kindness and patience to a difficult person, avoiding to gossip about them with others