I use the word mercy many times over, and he asks what mercy looks like. It’s a harder question than I anticipate. Formless virtue is simple; to give it life and ligaments is more difficult.
The answer is greater than my two hands and difficult to wrap up neatly. I call it extreme empathy, an inability to look away. A driving desire to fill gaps. Total investment in the belief that I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you. A lifestyle, not an isolated action. Still, so many words don’t unite structure with substance, and it lingers on my mind.
What is mercy?, I ask myself daily, and feel like a distant admirer: I know about you, but I don’t know who you are. Longing to plumb the depths, but still studying the surface. Perhaps the only way to truly understand the scope of any calling is to spend your life answering it. A journey best traveled not by map-making, but by road-walking.
Mercy visits the destitute in their distress and does not look down, but kneels down and looks eye-to-eye, soul-to-soul. Mercy speaks for the silent, comforts the weary, feeds the hungry, names the nameless, welcomes the searching. Mercy says, Even when you are lost to the world and beyond my reach to rescue, you are not lost to me and I will not look away without speaking on your behalf. Even when there is no reason or resolution for suffering, mercy is relentlessly, recklessly compassionate. If we are a body, then mercy is the muscle that opens the hand, a muscle through which exercise becomes habit, habit becomes reflex, and reflex becomes religion.
We may not comprehend the mysteries, but we can accomplish the ministry, for mercy is simply a call and response.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.