Living in the Spirit of Mercy
This month, a little more than halfway into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we celebrate Pentecost. We know that on the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was made manifest to the disciples who were gathered together in the upper room
We commemorate that great event every year, knowing that the Holy Spirit comes into the world to fill us with grace and to guide our lives. The Spirit reminds us what it is to be a member of the Body of Christ, impels us to live our lives in harmony with Jesus Christ, and offers us the grace to do so.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have been called to reflect on God’s Mercy in our lives. It is through the Spirit’s power that we experience the effects of God’s mercy. In the busy-ness of our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is present in our world. When we examine the state of the culture, it’s easy to presume that He has simply abandoned us. That impression cannot be further from the truth. The Spirit is right in our midst. In fact, the Spirit dwells in our hearts.
If you think that the Holy Spirit has left us to fend for ourselves — to deal with the likes of suffering, famine, terrorism, war and injustice — think again. He has not abandoned the world; although, perhaps to some extent, the world has abandoned Him.
While we are certainly not masters of our own destiny, we are cooperators with the Holy Spirit’s grace. He instills God’s grace into our hearts and impels us to act upon (and in concert with) that grace. Any impression that the Spirit has abandoned us is easily dispelled by a clear understanding of our role as cooperators with the grace the Holy Spirit has given us. That role might be active or contemplative. The story of Martha and Mary makes that clear to us.
The meaning of mercy is hard to pin down, but a reasonable definition of mercy might be: pity or compassion from the heart. It’s not a stretch to say that, since the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, he is the means by which God the Father bestows his mercy upon us — and the means through which we are prompted to convey his mercy to others.
The Spirit’s gifts provide further insight. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord are all gifts of the Spirit by which God’s mercy is bestowed upon us — or through which He impels us to offer God’s mercy to others.
With this understanding, we can say that we truly live in the spirit of mercy. As Christians, we are often reminded that we must give what we receive. That’s certainly true of God’s mercy. We have an obligation to share God’s mercy with the world, beginning in our families — and extending our reach throughout our community to the ends of the earth. That’s what Jesus did, and I suspect he wants us to do the same.
The Holy Spirit impels us to convey God’s mercy to one another, to be instruments of God’s mercy. If we want to change the world, we might think about ways in which we can offer God’s mercy to others. God’s mercy will change the culture. Compassion from the heart will go a long way to moving our imperfect world toward divine perfection.
Through God’s mercy, we are moved from the imperfections of this world to fullness of life. The Lord’s miracles are examples of that movement. Recall that, in his mercy, the Lord extended his hand and gently touched a leper, moving that leper from imperfection to fullness of life. His disease no longer marginalized him. Instead, Jesus healed him. He was reintroduced into his community and restored to the fullness of life which God the Father intended from the beginning. His life was transformed by a divine act of mercy.
The Holy Spirit impels us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps — to be as he is and to do as he does. In particular, to offer one another his mercy — compassion from the heart. Do we have the courage and conviction of our faith to do that? It’s certainly a challenge for each of us, but it’s a challenge that we cannot turn down.
If we want to change the culture for Christ, let’s be sure to offer to one another the mercy we have received in abundance through life in the Spirit. That’s what Jesus did. It worked for him; it will work for us.
FR. MARK REEVES is an attorney, architect and priest of the Archdiocese of Miami. He is the chaplain of Legatus’ Miami Chapter.