Mercy is Sensitivity
December 11: Saturday of the Second Week of Advent Year C2
Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Matthew 17:9a, 10-13
Prophets raise eyebrows—John ate bugs and wore animal skins. But mercy rides on empathy (from the German Einfuhlung: to “feel inside” of another). Only those who can relate to people by sharing their feelings can have mercy.
Jesus responded unpredictably and according to people’s needs. He fasted forty days in the desert; then he lived so normally around others he was called “a glutton and a drunkard.” He spoke with God on the mountaintop; but on ground level he was jostled by crowds and mixed so freely that he was labeled the “friend of sinners.” He raged against the Pharisees but showed tenderness to a woman caught in adultery and tolerance to an unmarried Samaritan with a live-in mate. Like Paul later, he “became all things to all.” keeping the law to be credible to law observers, but breaking the law to minister to those “outside the law” (see 1 Corinthians 9:19; Matthew 12:1; John 4:9).
At Vatican II, Cardinal Leger of Montreal called for “mercy” based on sensitivity. He said: “The splendor of the ornaments and titles we bishops use, often against our will, are harmful to our pastoral ministry, especially to the poor.”
Bottom line: we can’t help people if we don’t try to understand how they feel.
Daily Practice: Ask how your conduct affects others.
Advent Prayer: Help me to see myself as others see me.