Blessed are the Merciful

11th Sunday after Pentecost

1 Cor 9:2-12
Matthew 13:23-35

In writing to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul said that God is rich in mercy. In the same epistle, he said that we are to be imitators of God.

The Beatitudes is often considered a summation of the Law of the New Covenant, the Covenant under which we live. And at the very center of the Beatitudes, what do we find? Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Today’s Gospel is an illustration of what happens when we don’t follow that simple precept, of being merciful.

The servant in the story is forgiven a very large debt. He then turns around and sends another servant to jail for not paying him a much smaller amount. He is forgiven a million dollars, and won’t forgive a ten dollar debt.

How does the master respond? He withdraws the mercy, throws the servant in jail, and tells him he won’t get out until he pays off the entire debt.

God has forgiven us so much – He’s forgiven us EVERYTHING. And what does He expect of us? Mercy towards others. And, if we don’t? They’ll be Hell (or maybe Purgatory) to pay!

But mercy doesn’t just include forgiving others.

The Church gives us, as guidelines, seven Corporal Works and seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Corporal works are

Feed the hungry, Give water to the thirsty, Cloth the naked, Shelter the homeless, Visit the sick, Visit the imprisoned, Bury the dead

Now, the government does some of these in our name. But we also do some ourselves. Our parish has a wonderful ministry visiting the sick, and periodically, we have collections for a food pantry. And, of course, the law requires burying the dead.

But, beyond visiting the sick of the parish, how many of us will visit a nursing home, or a jail? I know that, personally, I have fallen short.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are

Admonish the sinner, Teach the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the sorrowful, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive all injuries, Pray for the living and the dead.

These tend to be more difficult.

Admonish the sinner : Sin is more widespread in our society than in the past, and the response is often that, if we tell someone that their action is a sin, we’re accused of judging them. But, we aren’t the judge – God is If we advise that an action is sinful, and that God’s reaction will be negative, it’s not judging. Love and mercy demand that we warn the sinner of the consequences.

Instruct the ignorant – Our Lord tells us that the Truth will set us free. How can it set us free if we don’t know it?

Counsel the doubtful – again, it’s an attempt to lovingly show someone the right path.

Bear wrongs patiently – isn’t that what our Lord did when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”?

Forgive all injuries – remember the Lord’s prayer? Forgive us out trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

Pray for the living and the dead – this should be an easy one. Think of the millions of souls in Purgatory for whom nobody is praying, souls that cannot pray for themselves. They need our prayers more than ever.

Now, we have to ask, why should we be merciful.

Certainly, we are all in need of mercy. I know I certainly am. And, to receive mercy, we must be merciful.

Another reason is that Paul wrote to the Ephesians to be imitators of God. God is rich in mercy. So to imitate Him, we must strive to be rich in mercy.

But, there’s another reason. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Christ gave His final instructions to the Apostles, to go and make disciples of all nations. But, by virtue of our baptism, we share in that mission.

In the Gospel of Luke, when He sent out the Seventy as witnesses throughout Israel, he gave them four instructions. When they entered a house, they were to wish peace upon the house. Then they were to have fellowship with those in the house. Then they were to minister to them, and only after that were they to preach.

Not all of us can preach. But we can all bring Christ’s peace, we can all fellowship with others, and we can all minister to others, looking to fill their needs through mercy

So, my brothers and sisters . . .

Be merciful, because only the merciful receive mercy

Be merciful, because God is merciful

Be merciful, because, in being merciful, you further the growth of the Kingdom of God.