As we begin the New Year, I believe that we all need to reflect on the aspects of life that bring us together. Perhaps one of the most binding to us, in particular as students of Mercyhurst University, is the founding virtue: Mercy. So what does “Mercy” mean?
When I read the Catholic Bible, I find numerous sections that discuss the merciful acts of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most famous examples of mercy would be in the story of the forgiveness of the prostitute, which is concluded in John 8:11, where Christ states, “Go and sin no more.” Mercy, in essence, is when God spares us from the eternal punishment for sin. As shown in the above Scriptural excerpt, our proper response is to “sin no more.”
Mercy sounds simple enough, so why worry about its definition? Unfortunately, in modern times, I have seen the idea of mercy misused by many. Many will argue that to be merciful, one should not correct someone for acting in sin, and thus allow them to continue sinning. I have seen this everywhere in the Catholic community, where the hard issues are dodged for fear of seeming judgmental. In many modern Catholic churches, I hear very little about the sinfulness behind abortion and misuse of God’s gift of sex. At the same time, many modern leaders preach about the values of environmental care and reforming immigration and refugee laws. While I feel these are important issues we need to look at, leaders also need to recognize that social and moral issues are equally important.
Since the Second Vatican Council, many progressive leaders have misinterpreted its teachings on mercy, resulting in the disregard for basic morality and doctrines. From this came the “Church of Nice,” where nobody knows what sin really is and we are all expected to let people do whatever they want, lest we appear judgmental. This is anything but merciful because we are setting up those living in sin for eternal damnation. When you know someone is living a sinful lifestyle, you are not supposed to let the individual continue as such, but rather you need to offer him or her a way out of sin. We can easily apply Jesus’ teachings from John 8:11 to help that someone “sin no more.” As said by the great Cardinal Robert Sarah, “If there is no repentance, there’s no mercy.” A core requirement of mercy is for one’s willingness to repent.
In all this talk about letting those in sinful lifestyles receive Communion, one must remember what Jesus said: “Go and sin no more.” The Church prohibits those living in a state of mortal sin from receiving Eucharist without receiving a Confession and doing penance. If more people knew what sin was, they would probably know to go to Confession more. However, many people refuse to acknowledge their actions as sinful and receive His Body anyway, committing the grave sin of sacrilege. Mercy allows us a way out of sin, but in order for true mercy to occur, we must choose to sin no more.
We, as a mercy school, all need to reflect upon the idea of mercy. Christ offers mercy as a way for us to escape the life of sin and to avoid the punishment we as a sinful people deserve. To remove repentance from mercy is to nullify the meaning behind it. What does mercy mean to you? I would love to read responses to how you, the readers, understand Mercy.