Walking Through the Door of Mercy

I walked into the plaza at the Basilica of Our Lady of Los Angeles and there in front of me, up a very long flight of stairs, was this doorway of mercy. It was the way in, the only way in, and I stood there a long time, pondering what it would mean, to slowly make my way up the long staircase, up the steps, praying my way in – through the doorway of Mercy.

I thought about Mercy. What a gift, to be invited into this place, of kindness, wholeness, justice, love, love, love – all enveloping love. I was ready. Ready for Mercy! And oh, the joy that came as I entered there. I walked through, I walked into mercy. What peace!

So, wait, mercy? Mercy? What do you mean?
Mercy! “Mercy, me!” “O, mercy, girl, whaddayou
talkin’ ‘bout?” “O Mercy.”
“Can we get just a little bit of mercy around here?”
Mercy has kind of a bad rap. It has a reputation for putting out what is not deserved, giving more than is really called for. Mercy is like that chalky charity we hand over, dollar bills, to the poor. Mercy, we think, is kind of cheap. Easy.
Mercy, we think, is the last ditch effort we beg: “Please, have mercy… Let me ride the roller coaster even though it’s late and rainy and, oh, please, it’s dry enough. Have mercy and, oh, please, I drove all this way, please, let me ride.”   (And they did.)

Mercy is what we beg for when we’re late, when we are caught speeding, when we cheat, or fail, screw up, fall on our face. “O, please, show some mercy.”

Mercy is special pleading. The dispensation, reprieve. “Even though I should ground you until the end of time, take your phone, and your computer, I will show mercy…”
We think of mercy as being given more than what we deserve, more than we have a right to; mercy is that second, eighth, 92nd chance, a ‘pass,’ a ‘get out of jail’ free, card.
My girlfriends used to go on ‘mercy dates,’ just because they felt sorry for the guy.
Mercy. Getting more than we deserve.
But, au contraire. But, no. That’s pity, not mercy. They are not the same. Mercy is not a lucky freebie.
Nope. Not it.

Mercy, as the Biblical stories and narrative uses the word, in Hebrew, is closest to their word, “chesed.” And it means “Lovingkindness.” It is not something undeserved, extraordinary, but rather the immeasurable love that God pours over us, immerses us in, lavishes upon us.
Indeed, mercy also is used in the Hebrew for the plural of womb. It has a profoundly nurturing, protective sense: God’s mercy is a womb where we are given nurture, safety, space to grow and develop. What a beautiful image. It is our birthright, quite literally!
Mercy is basically the kind, decent, right thing to do in relationships. It is, in fact, taking care of the relationship. It is being – in our case – decently human toward another person (or animal).
What a gift! To be welcome, to walk through the doorway of mercy. I had to stand and ponder for several minutes. To walk through the doorway of Mercy. Mercy. It was the most deeply meaningful act I took on my recent 3300 mile road trip through the SW to visit brother Jim. (And that’s saying something!)
We walk through doorways of mercy, and open to welcome others through the door of Mercy every time we are kind – not sentimentally, sappy kind -- but seriously, go out of our way to make a difference for someone, make their life good and joyful and filled with good things – things they DO deserve.

And the poor. The poor do ask for mercy. They ask for love. For profound nurturing kindness. They ask for justice. That – that IS mercy. The poor are asking me for mercy. Not cheap charity. Not sentimental sap. And not for something more than they deserve.
They deserve mercy! Lovingkindness, nurturing, womblike care. The poor deserve it no less than we do.

Can we make every entryway a door to Mercy?

“Dear Jesus, you showed mercy in every thing you did. Help me to follow in your Risen life, make me new. Thank you for your mercy to me. Help me to make of my whole life a doorway into mercy, where especially the poor, but all who come by, might be overwhelmed by your mercy – yikes – delivered by me! Trample death and bring new life, mercy, to all people!” Amen

And I’m so grateful for God’s Mercy, I can’t get this joyful tune out of my head…

Brandenburg Concerto Number Six, Movement 3

Jan Erickson Pearson

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