Blog,  Prayer and Reflections

A Matter of Mercy…

Mercy: compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm (Oxford English Dictionary)

It’s interesting to reflect on the second half of this definition before the first half. As we walk through life we are presented with so many opportunities to make decisions about how we behave in relation to others (and you can apply what I’m going to say here to how we relate to our selves as well as others). We have opportunities to cause others so much harm. Sometimes this is ‘big’ harm- physical damage or severe emotional damage. Other times we can cause ‘small’ harm too. This ‘small’ harm, ironically, over time can cause the same or even more damage as the ‘big’ harm. We can cause this harm in all sorts of ways; decisions about how we speak to or about others as well as how we behave towards them can have a dreadful impact. As we grow, we see that these opportunities present themselves all the more often. It is a sort of ‘power’. But a power that, if exerted, is not good. Not good at all.

The antidote to this ‘power’ comes with the first half of the definition above: ‘compassion and forgiveness’. This is a wonderful ‘powerlessness’or forging of power if you will. Opportunities for forgiveness and compassion will present themselves just as often as the opportunities to cause harm- in effect they are one and the same opportunity. The road of forgiveness and compassion will usually be the harder road to travel. But whichever road we travel, its results will be multiplied and perpetuated. Which road will we take?


Jesus spoke of mercy. We can think here of two references from the Gospel of Matthew for those Bible reading folk among us. In 9:13 and 12:7 he said (referencing an Old Testament Prophet, Hosea):


“I desire not sacrifice, but mercy.” He said this to the Pharisees. These were the intelligent, law filled (law bound) Jewish leaders of his day. What he was saying, I think, was that the people of his time were caught up in sacrifices- keeping rules and regulations- that were an attempt to bring them closer to God, but which had actually BECOME their God instead. And in their application of these rules they were actually causing harm to others and getting in the way of really finding God in their midst (the ultimate irony of course is that the Pharisees were obsessed with finding God and he was standing literally in front of them but they couldn’t see!).


So Jesus told them (and us) that he desired mercy instead of sacrifice. He desired forgiveness and compassion. He wanted rules and laws to lead us to God: not for laws to become stumbling blocks to anyone finding God in their life. Laws and rules are launch pads for us to begin our search for God. No-one who wants to reach the stars stays on the launch pad… 

Looking back, how wise it was for Pope Francis to have given us a Year of Mercy in 2015. Indeed, Pope Francis is, for me, the ope of mercy. 

And so, my prayer is for mercy.

Mercy shown to us all, by us all.

Mercy instead of punishment.

Mercy instead of harm.

Mercy instead of laws that impede anyone searching for God in their lives.

After all, God is merciful (as a mess, I’m so thankful for this).

God is Divine Mercy if you will.



  • Anonymous

    I wish our priests some to mention showed that mercy not always given and very needed and maybe they need look at themselves the church is so supposed to be a family parish but not always felt so I always felt as a parish we should be supporting each other in times of loss and hurt and lonliness from God this is when we need to come together as a parish family 🙏🏻

  • Theresa

    I also am in a mess. Over the past months and years we have seen how punishment has been used instead of mercy. Do those in power believe they are striving to bring us towards God ? Are they being merciful or harmful ? I believe Jesus would be saying the same today. He does not want sacrifices or the stumbling blocks to lead us away from God. Mercy is love. God is love, love is God.
    In my big mess I pray for God’s mercy. I struggle with being merciful towards those who pass laws which are so harmful, this makes it easier for those to believe man’s law is always just. Have things, life changed ? Sacrifices still happen. God is still here. I too am thankful for God’s mercy in my struggles and I hope he gets why I struggle with those in or with power pushing laws which some believe is the same as God’s law. A wonderful piece of writing as usual Jim. So much to think about ourselves and how merciful we are.
    My thoughts are probably too simple in this world but I believe The Son of God, Jesus was a simple man of love, mercy and forgiveness. May he give me the grace to keep turning to him for mercy and forgiveness in my struggles and mess. xx
    God bless Jim.

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