Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Orthodoxy is a sagacious faith. It gives good advice. It gives it humbly, meekly. It hands over to every new generation of mankind what it has received from the Word of Christ found in the gospels and the apostles.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them.”

This is no abstract concept. Merely thinking about it will get you nowhere. Reading it, repeating it, again, you are frozen in your tracks. To arrive somewhere, you must take steps, you must walk. If you want to arrive at the seat of mercy, your feet must teach you the way, you have to walk the path.

Where does that leave us? What does it mean to be merciful? How do you walk to get to that place of safety, to that city of refuge, where mercy will be shown you? What work of mercy can you do? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, heal the afflicted, release the captives, teach the ignorant, raise the dead or, if you cannot, at least bury them? Big words, big deeds, impossible deeds. Who can do these things? They are too many, “and I am just one person.”

You’re right, of course. You are just one person, and handicapped by your many personal defects and the cares of this world. Good. To know this, to acknowledge this, is a start. You too need a savior. You also need mercy. To know yourself and your limitations is the beginning of humility. To turn from this revelation and do an ‘about face’ to the Lord, that’s your next step.

Pray. Ask the Lord to send someone to you who needs mercy to be shown them, someone to whom you can be merciful. He won’t delay. This is a prayer that He will answer in less than 24 hours, in less than one hour perhaps, maybe even in a matter of minutes.

So, you pray this prayer, “Lord, send me someone to whom I can show mercy today,” and you throw on your coat, hop into your car, and in a minute and a half you’re gliding up the on-ramp of the freeway at 50 miles an hour, hurrying to work.

“What’s she doing? Is she gonna merge or not? Why isn’t she using her turn signal? She’s going so slow! Doesn’t she know I’ve got only 17 minutes left to get to work?” You lose patience, consign the driver to the devil, honk the horn, punch the accelerator, and break the speed limit momentarily while you leave her jalopy behind you in a cloud of mingled dust and exhaust. You look quickly up into the rear view mirror to see who it was that was causing you to lose your composure... an old man, probably an octogenarian, is driving that beat up old car! He smiles meekly and waves his confusion with his right hand, and you barely caught sight of it. Now you wish you hadn’t.

“Blessed are the merciful...” involuntarily scrolls through your active mind, while the self-watcher in you taunts, “You blew it again.”

O God, how can we whose minds are so unstable keep our eyes focused on You, so that we can do what we see You doing every day and all around us? For You fill our world at every moment with creatures just like us, falling into need and sin, or arising out of it following the call of life that You’ve planted in us, though we might not know it. Your Word has been strewn among us, seeking that fertile humus in which it can sprout, grow and eventually bear fruit, so that it does not return to You void.

Open our eyes, Lord, to see the world as You see it, at every moment, in every place hearts crying out for mercy, to receive it, but also to bestow it. Show us, Father, that we are not alone, and that to show mercy can be as humble as yielding to another’s infirmity, to overlook our brother’s ignorance, to forgive one who injures or insults us before, or even without, being asked.

Help us to see that mercy has no size limit, large or small, visible or hidden. It is an arrow that never fails to hit its mark. That to stand confidently before Your seat of mercy is to be merciful wherever we are, just as You are merciful. And to always pray what we hear Jesus praying every day, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

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