OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST preaches: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour. The spiritual works of mercy are: instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity. It is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

However, it is not only the giving of alms, but the practice of all works of mercy that is recommended: “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful ... Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and will be the measure God will use for you” (Lk 6: 36-38). The central message of both the Divine Mercy and the Gospel is “Love of God and love of neighbour.” Today is the second Sunday after Easter and the Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy is the greatest attribute of God. His treasury of compassion is inexhaustible and virtually limitless. Unfathomable Divine Mercy is an incomprehensible mystery. Mercy is sheer gift. Mercy cancels out wrongs and transgressions. Mercy does not suggest that the guilty are not guilty; it recognises the guilt but does not demand satisfaction for the wrong.

Adultery is, undoubtedly, a very serious sin, severely condemned in all civilisations. Jesus was known to be very strict in matters relating to the indissolubility of marriage and marital fidelity. He condemns adultery unequivocally. He says, “A man that looks at a woman lustfully has already committed fornication in his heart” (Mt 5: 28).

A trap was set for him. An adulterous woman was brought to him. “Master,” the accusers said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery ... what do you say? (Jn 8: 4-6). The Mosaic Law prescribes stoning to death (Lev. 20: 10 and Deut 22: 22-24). Seeing the way they debased, humiliated and dehumanised the woman, Jesus turns away in disgust.

When her accusers persisted, Jesus uttered the most famous line, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8: 7) - taken straight from Deut 17: 7. Jesus resumed writing on the ground. They dropped their stones and disappeared.

When he raised up his eyes, he asked her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” The woman answered, “No one sir.” Jesus then said to her: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” We should be aware of our own sins before accusing others of theirs. Jesus Christ is the merciful Judge who does not approve of sin, but forgives the sinner.

Mercy is one of the dominant notes in the preaching of Our Lord. His parables were parables of mercy e.g. the prodigal son,, the lost sheep, the lost coin etc. Mercy is a compassion that seeks to unburden the sorrows of others as if they were our own.

Compassion was so ingrained in Jesus, it was a natural reflex. In Luke 22: 51, as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the chief priests in the garden of Gethsemane, Malchus’ right ear was cut off. Jesus, without hesitation, touches the ear, instantly, healing him. Jesus says to the Good Thief: “This day you shall be with me in Paradise” A Good Thief is one who steals Paradise!

Second Vatican Council - ‘The Church Today’ states: “In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbour of absolutely every person, and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign labourer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, a hungry person who disturbs our conscience.”

At the height of the battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War in America, when the field of battle between the opposing forces was literally covered with the dead and wounded of both sides, a young Confederate soldier was touched by the pitiable cries of the wounded for water. Determined to quench the thirst of the wounded and dying, the young soldier filled a bucket to overflowing with fresh water and, dodging fierce enemy fire and bursting shells, went on to the open field and administered drink to the wounded of both sides. The soldiers of both armies were so moved by the young Confederate’s act of mercy and courage under cross-fire, that they ceased firing at each other for over an hour. During this virtual truce, the lad in grey covered the field quenching the thirst of the wounded and comforting the dying of both sides!

“How would you beif he, who is the top of judgement, should but judge you as ye are,” said William Shakespeare. “O, think on that, and mercy then will breathe within your lips, like man new made.”

They who deny the material aid which they could readily give, who withhold the fragrance of their love and helpfulness, ultimately discover that the very foundation of their hearts dry up and their finer nature petrify. Though one might be money rich, a shrunken soul cannot enjoy his wealth. Enjoyment is born out of generosity, out of mercy, kindness and love.

The love of our neighbour is the only door out of the dungeon of self. No man can be a friend of Jesus Christ who is not a friend to  his neighbour. Therefore, to love our neighbour in charity is to love God in man. St Teresa of Avila states: “Though we do not have our Lord with us in bodily presence, we have our neighbour, who, for the ends of love and loving service, is as good as our Lord himself.” Our Saviour says that if you do this to the least of my brother, you did it to me. Nevertheless, in what we know as the golden rule, Jesus Christ tells us to do unto others what we would like them to do unto us.

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