I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.
Yesterday was the Feast of Divine Mercy. It is a devotion of special significance to me. The Mercy of God has been the focal point of my spiritual life since it truly began.
At the services yesterday, the priest preached about God’s great Divine Mercy for us. But he also emphasized that it does not end with God. We are called to be merciful to the people in our lives. This includes not only those who are sorry for hurting us, but also the unrepentant. This, the priest acknowledged, was a tall order.
I have written before about the distinction between justice and mercy as well as the relationship between the two. And while both are good, mercy is the higher and better thing. The great religious thinkers and saints always said that if you are to make an error, you should err on the side of mercy.
To be clear, our calling must sometimes include acting with justice. You need justice in order for mercy to make any sense. As a parent (or in my case a teacher), bad behavior must be tempered with just punishments. If not, the child will have a malformed moral center. You see this in those people whose parents do not discipline them or teachers who do not hold their students accountable. In both of those cases, the children are less prepared to be strong, responsible adults. And this principle can be applied to our system of civil laws and punishments. It would be irrational to simply empty all of the prisons in the name of mercy.
But when the decision is unclear or where either mercy or justice would be an appropriate response, we are called to act with mercy. This is difficult for many reasons. We often have to swallow our pride, deny our anger, and not brood over injury. But above all, giving mercy over justice is an act of faith.