By Br. Ambrose Arralde, O.P.
Mercy is the fruit of knowledge. Mercy is “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to succor him if we can” (Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 30 a. 1). As a result, we need to know the other’s distress to have mercy on him. This is the reason why mercy is not difficult for God. Even as we sin against him, “he knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps 103:14). Even as they nail him to the cross, he knows that “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Mercy is difficult for us because we do not see as God sees. When others sin against us, we forget of what they are made. When people nail us to the cross, they seem to know exactly what they are doing. We forget their distress: the brokeness in their hearts and the darkness in their minds that make them so vulnerable to temptation. We forget that they too are wounded by sin, and harassed by the devil. To be merciful, we need something of a “God’s-eye-view.” We need to see others as God sees them.
This perspective, of course, can only come from God himself. As such, when we hear Jesus say things like, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), we should hear more than simply a command. Whenever Jesus commands us to do something, he is promising that he will give us the strength to do it: “God therefore does not command impossibilities; but in His command He counsels you both to do what you can for yourself, and to ask His aid in what you cannot do” (St. Augustine, On Nature and Grace, 50).
In commanding us to be merciful as our Father, Jesus is promising to give us eyes to see others as our Father sees them. Whenever we find ourselves struggling to fulfill the command to be merciful, or find ourselves forgetful of the plight of our fellow, fallen brothers and sisters, we need to turn to Jesus. We need to turn to the one who opened the eyes of the blind, that he may open our eyes to the distress of those around us. Only in seeing others as God sees them, in knowing their distress as God knows it, can we too may be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.