SCRIPTURE: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. –Matthew 5.7
Mercied the Merciful
Happy they who are greatly concerned about those in need: they will receive great concern in their own need.
Blissful those who show compassion to others for they will receive compassion.
Privileged those whose hearts are filled with pity because they will receive pity.
My favorite: Blessed the merciful for they shall be mercied.
Often biblically, mercy is an aspect of forgiveness, as with the mercy of God shown by God’s forgiveness. But the two musn’t be confused: mercy is the quality; forgiveness is the thing done as the result of the quality of God’s mercy. Another way to say it is that God’s mercy is God’s motive – the reason why God is moved to forgiveness. But biblically, mercy is not forgiveness. Mercy is compassion, pity, caring for and about the other.
Yet it is even more than caring. Here, the Hebrew word would be chesed, a way of caring and being that originates in the cultivated ability to see and experience things from the other’s point of view. It’s the original idea of sympathy, which from the Greek literally means to experience or to suffer together with. Thus might we better understand this blessing to say: Blissful the ones who get right inside others until they see with the other’s eyes, think with their thoughts, feel with their feelings: they who do that will receive that same understanding and caring returned to them.*
Ultimately, mercy is the quality of surrender of self in order to better know, understand and serve another. It’s an act of supreme and abundant generosity, this form of being, living and giving.
This abundant generosity that is mercy is costly to the giver: it is not easy to see things from the other’s eyes. It requires effort. It requires a giving self. And it results in pain – the experience of the pain of the other as one’s own pain in a manner of speaking.
This is the only beatitude in which the blessing is to receive the thing expended. Up to now, the blessed one is one who lacks and receives the opposite of what they experience: the mourners receive comfort . . . the meek the earth . . . the hungering and thirsting, filling . . . and the poor, the very kingdom itself . . . up to now, Jesus blesses those who lack with the promise of fulfillment . . .
Here, however, is emphasized that in the very quality lies the gift.
As William Shakespeare noted in The Merchant of Venice, from the mouth of Portia to Shylock, to whom she owed a debt she could not repay, her plea for his mercy: “the quality of mercy is not strained. . . It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven . . . Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. . . it is an attribute of God himself.”
Ah, blessed, blissful, privileged the compassionate caring ones among -us: rest well, for compassionate caring will be yours.
*William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, p. 105.