Mercy is a Person

– Fourth week of Advent –

Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” [Luke 1:46-49]

The idea of ‘mercy’ has popped up several times during these Advent reflections. It is suitable that it does, as Advent is the season in which we prepare for what is arguably the most generous act of love and mercy that the universe has ever known. We prepare for the fact the Lord God of all takes on human life so that we might take on his divine life (St. Athanasius, ‘On the Incarnation’ (De Incarnatione) 54:3).

The mission of the Church, and each baptised person within her, is to make ‘herself a servant of this love and to mediate it to all people…wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy’ (Pope Francis, ‘The Face of Mercy’, (Misericordiae Vultus) no. 12).

But mercy is so much more than God feeling benevolent and forgiving towards us. The mercy of God calls us into a relationship with him. It makes it possible for each of us to stand in God’s presence and to experience the gaze of his love as a joy and not as a reproach.

It seems so straightforward, but is it really?

Someone once said to me, “I don’t like the thought that Jesus wishes to have a personal relationship with me. For, if that is true, he might want to impact on my life. I’m not sure if I want that.” And here we find the human dilemma: torn between the desire to believe in God and the desire to keep God at a distance (Genesis 3:8).

Our natural hesitation at not wanting to lose ourselves in our relationship with God is understandable. We like to know that our lives will not take a direction that we would rather not go. We are brought up believing that this is ‘our life’ and we are responsible for who we are and what we become. If it is my life, where does God fit into it? I can be happy to believe in him, as long as he keeps his distance and does not interfere too much unless I need him to.

This is one of the reasons why Mary is so important. In her, we see the perfect coming together of personal autonomy and a life transformed in Christ. She did not become any the less because God took up residence in her. Instead, she became herself while receiving the gift of being so much more than that.

In his mercy and love, God wants your life.

He will give it back to you and then some (Luke 6:38).

By Shane Dwyer

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