Mercy, part 2 – Gazed with Mercy
Why do we pity the blind? Isn’t it because they cannot see the beauty, the wonder, the dimensions and the motions of what we can see? And when we talk with them, it could be near impossible to describe colour, shapes, and features. It is also awkward to explain how a scene is funny or astonishing, and how a child looks so much like his mother. Blind people are disabled from connecting what they cannot see with what they can otherwise sense. Signs and words need to be felt and heard. Pictures are often much left to their imagination.
I suppose this is why God pities mankind and would not leave us to our fate - why God is so merciful to us. We became disabled at the loss of Eden. Blinded by sin in this corruptible world, we only have our faith to really ‘see’ with. Faith with which to recognise God’s image in people. Faith to experience God in us, with.
Perhaps this is what faith is – a sixth human sense. More than a perspective, faith is constitutional and genetic. A means for us to recognise the Fatherly life-giver who is the cause and the fulfilment of our heart’s restlessness and thirsts[i]. But misguided faith can also lead man to think of himself a god – begotten in evolution, not designed with intent and purpose, of one being with the vast universe which (by affinity) justifies his pride and philosophic boastings – as if apart from God, he can be greater than his urn, his body which contains him. Just as misguided and diminished senses can lead the blind to incorrect conclusions, so too could faith when misguided or diminished, result in (i) a loss of trust in Jesus; and (ii) loss of ability to recognise Jesus, especially in the poor and in the Eucharist. To mitigate the effects of these errors in faith, God instils in each of us another ‘sixth sense’ – our conscience!
Conscience is the sacred space God carves out for Himself inside a person to enable each us to self-assess our lives when projected against the righteousness and holiness of God. The fruits of a good examination of conscience is a holy shame (ie. a humble disposition toward God) and a repentant heart[ii]. Both of these are pleasing to God and cause for heavenly rejoicing[iii]. Our conscience helps realign our faith in the love and mercy of God. When we experience Divine Mercy, we are moved by God’s loving gaze on us to, in turn, change ourselves and to change our outlook towards others and the whole of creation. We are moved to take on the ‘merciful outlook’ – which means to take in a view from the perspective of mercy.
The merciful outlook was written about extensively by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, in his book “You Did It to Me – a practical guide to Mercy in action”[iv]. The merciful outlook is NOT the downward gaze of one who is patronising, proselytising and judgemental. On the contrary, the merciful outlook is more like that of the father who lovingly gives in and advances his son’s rightful inheritance - then forgives him for squandering it[v]; more like the saint who bursts to share God’s love and the Gospel through authentic love for the other; more like Jesus’ teaching reminding us to stop short of trespassing onto someone else’s conscience[vi] and to avoid prying to ‘see in the other what the other’s own inner eye [conscience] sees’[vii] .
The merciful outlook is also NOT an over-spiritualised outlook in that it genuinely delights in the other – not just delighting in Jesus who happens to reside in the other. Taking ‘death’ for an example, Fr Michael nails down the significance of each person’s “inexhaustible beauty” in how people are missed – even (and especially) because of their annoying personality traits! ‘We rightfully weep because there’s a hole in the cosmos, a reflection of Christ’s face that here, we behold no more.’[viii]
The merciful outlook prudently overcome cynicisms, to look over the sins and real annoyances in people – deciding instead ‘to deal with it, look past it, or even rediscover it as a treasure’[ix] and ‘it chooses mercy over justice, and trusts in the power of mercy to bring an even greater good out of evil’.[x] The merciful outlook recognises the signature of God in the unique composition of the other and reveres the King-hidden by conferring princely dignity to the other. Further, the merciful outlook is ready to correct the other, to save both his soul and the other’s, in the spirit of ‘better to love than to be right’.
In a special way, to look at another mercifully is to love more than the other is ready or comfortable of being loved. This means setting yourself up for possible rejection, shaming, disappointment or even persecution. Loving mercifully is messy, and it is a hit-and-miss activity. “God is pleased with the person who doesn’t lose heart after embarrassing himself trying to love. He is so happy when we don’t give up after learning firsthand what it means to be a ‘fool for Christ’s sake’.”[xi]
And so the merciful outlook moves us to reach out to others, and to dive deep among the murk to delight in the treasures God has instilled in the other which pleased Him since the dawn of creation.[xii] Without the merciful gaze of God and the merciful outlook of his saints, and each other, we are destined to be lonely people seeking to excel only at distracting ourselves.
In my life, I strive these days to be reminded to add the ‘secret ingredient’ of mercy in all my thoughts and prayers, in my communion with people and the world. I’ve noticed changes already in my outlook toward family and friends, my CFC community, my workmates, and in my service. Even if others do not change, I experience changes and graces within. Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and 3pm Divine Mercy prayer is very helpful to me. (I recall praying it regularly in high-school but somehow I stopped the devotion for almost 30 years!)
Since taking up mercy prayers again, I find that choosing a merciful outlook arms me to better engage others with diverse faiths, multicultural histories, and secularistic language which are prevalent in my workplace and immediate society.
Viewing life with mercy also helps me pray better: to be more reflective, more honest, more rigorous, more courageous and more aware. The great irony for me is that even as I experience chastisements and sorrows, I feel there is already an element of divine mercy there just for me – if only because God permitted these things to happen to me because He loves me as His child, has great plans for me, and desires permanent togetherness with me.
Yes! Mercy changes people, societies and even environments. Mercy is a cause for joy and Jubilee. Having a merciful outlook is Christ’s grace at work in us, toward our reconciliation and ongoing transformation in Him.
For Reflection and Sharing
How do you know when God gazes at you mercifully? How do you sense this?
Recall and share about a time you received the merciful outlook from someone. Who was it and how did it feel?
What makes loving mercifully a ‘messy, hit-or-miss’ activity?
‘The merciful outlook is different from the judgemental outlook, the proselytising outlook, the patronising outlook, and the over-spiritualised outlook.’ How can I be merciful toward others who judge me, patronise me, preach to me, and only love Jesus in me – but cannot stand me for who I am?
How can I remind myself to always add mercy as a ‘secret ingredient’ in all my reflection, prayers and considerations to influence my decisions, communications and works? How am I consoled when my effort to love ‘misses’ its mark?
By Oliver Molina, CFC member
6 December, 2015
[i]St. Augustine's Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5) "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
[ii] Luke 18:13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’[iii] Luke 15:7 ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’