Merciful as My Father is Merciful

Yesterday was the first session of the Lent Retreat in Daily Living that Marta Pereira, my successor as director of the University of St. Thomas’ Office for Spirituality, is offering at the law school during this season of Lent.  The theme for Marta’s reflection was Merciful as my Father is Merciful.

After sharing some thoughts on the subject, Marta invited us to take some time reflecting on what God is calling us to so that we can embody God’s mercy.

As I sat with the words from yesterday’s Gospel, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” what immediately leapt to my my mind were two characteristics of God’s mercy that we often fail to mirror.  First, that God sees what we do in the best possible light, yet we so often adopt the worst possible interpretation of what another says and does.  Second, that God sees the totality of the picture, yet we often look just at outward appearances, limiting the ability to understand where another person is coming from.

When I returned to the office, continuing to think about the invitation to imitate God in these aspects of his mercy, I looked up at my bulletin board.  Tacked to it was a sheet of paper containing the following prayer – a prayer that I have placed on the bulletin board of every office I have inhabited since a friend sent it to me in 2002.

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

Let us be slower to judge, and quicker to offer compassion and mercy to others.