Shakespeare’s fictional character Portia, from “The Merchant of Venice,” understood mercy well. Her soliloquy begins,
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…
Her notion is not unlike the Beatitude “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Portia also says that to season justice with mercy is godlike. Without God’s mercy not one of us can hope to be saved.
In his papal letter “Misericordiae Vultus,” Pope Francis says, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” Mercy is more than an abstract concept. Mercy is a person.
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy begins December 8th on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is fitting, because Mary is Mother of Mercy (Mater Misericordia), a title given her in the “Salve Regina” prayer.
The Year of Mercy motto is Merciful like the Father. Pope Francis’ hope is that we contemplate mercy as exemplified in the lives of Jesus and Mary and emulate their merciful acts through doing spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Note: A version of this post was previously published in my parish bulletin.