Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Mercy is the Measure

Mercy is the virtue by which we freely stoop down to another when we need not have, without pride or gloating, and free them from hurt and bondage. We cancel the debt they owe us without fanfare and self-congratulation. We tend their wounds with gentle ointments. We listen to their heart.

Here's a beautiful passage about mercy from von Hildebrand's Transformation in Christ:

"Mercy presupposes true inner freedom

It also presupposes an inward suppleness and fluidity; a thoroughly melted, quickened, liberated heart. Every inward scar, as it were - every hardening, every incrustation brought about by an experience we have failed to rectify before God - dams up the flux of mercy. Nay, the path of mercy is thwarted by every kind of inner unfreedom: by our bondage, for example, to anxiety or disgust; to the rancor evoked in us by an insult; and in general to every overemphatic preoccupation. For everything that stunts our freedom tends to make us self-conscious and to deprive us of the capacity, implied in mercy, of taking our stand above the situation.

He alone who has attained the supernatural sovereignty that results from true freedom and is reserved for those who seek only the kingdom of God and his justice, who expects nothing of his own forces but everything of God - he alone can participate in the specifically divine virtue of mercy.

None but those who have burst the narrow limits of ego-life, and in full openness and awakeness centered their lives in Christ, can truly respond to the miseria of others and - beyond all mere compassion - perform the act of that redeeming loving kindness which conveys to the wretched a breath of the love of God and lifts them from their misery, "Lifting up the poor out of the dunghill, that he may place him with princes, with the princes of his people," (Ps 112:7-8).

Mercy presupposes humility

Nor is this holy sovereignty possible without humility. He alone who is deeply humble is blessed with true inward freedom and fluidity; he alone is free from all impeding hardness. The general significance of humility as a condition of all participation in the divine life stands out in particular brightness when it is a question of mercy. Our possession of the highest human virtue (which is humility) constitutes the necessary foundation of our progress toward sharing the specifically divine virtue of mercy. We must die to ourselves so that the mercy of Christ may fill us. With St. John the Baptist we must say: "He must increase; but I must decrease," (Jn 3:30).

Our mercy toward others is the measure of our life in Christ

Mercy, the specifically supernatural virtue, thus provides a touchstone more infallible perhaps than the test of any other virtue for a life conceived and molded in Christ. Hence, the question whether we have been merciful must play a decisive part in our examination of conscience. Many are the occasions for mercy which we miss. Only too often do we, as did the Pharisee, pass by a wounded one - clinging to our personal concerns, circumscribed by our lack of freedom.

Yet, the virtue by which we live hourly is precisely the one of which we ought to be most mindful. And the mercy of God is what we live by. It pervades our lives integrally; it is the primal truth on which the whole being of a Christian rests... The way to attain the virtue of mercy lies in our constant awareness of being encompassed by mercy: of the fact that mercy is the air we children of God are breathing. May the mercy of God... pierce and transform our hearts. May it draw us into the orbit of its all-conquering, liberating, [gentle] power, before which all worldly standards collapse.

For according to the words of the Lord's Prayer... only insofar as we become merciful ourselves may we harvest the fruits of His mercy and taste, on a day to come, the last word of His mercy..."


I myself have lately experienced the conjunction of receiving and giving mercy. The other day I had my feelings hurt in a trivial way, but a way that kinda hit a nerve. It was hard to let go of my little grudge, and I was afraid that it would poison everything.

As I approached the confessional, the words came into my heart, "Be it done unto me according to Thy word," (Lk 1:38). I began to repeat the words quietly and slowly, over and over as I walked down the road toward my parish. I could feel my hands loosening their grip on the grudge I was carrying. The Lord opened my heart to His will, whatever it should be. As my heart opened, I was freed from the hurt feelings, isolation, anxiety, and stress that were trapped in my closed heart, each aggravating the others like rocks in a tumbler. Those feelings just melted. In the same process my desire and ability to be gentle, mindful of others, and forgive injuries intensified. No - more than that. It wasn't simply that my desire to forgive was intensified; before my desire to forgive had been intense but I couldn't do it. Now it was done. It was done unto me. When I blessed myself in the confessional before telling the priest my sins, I realized that the hand that had clutched that grudge was now emptied and relaxed.

The ability to receive mercy depends upon faith. We must trust that God really does love us and have a plan for our wellbeing or we will not be open to what He wants to give us. We must trust that if we pour our heart out to God, that He will not leave us empty and broken, but will pour gracy and mercy into our soul.

The ability to show mercy depends upon faith. We must trust that God will do justice to those who have injured us maliciously, so that we need not concern ourselves so much with our rights, etc. We must trust that God will heal our wounds. We must trust that God will help us to grow because of them, and help those who have injured us without ill-will to grow as well. Ultimately, we must trust that God is being merciful to us, even when we cannot feel it.

When we are freed from interior wounds and let go of anger and grudges, we can gently tend to others - even to those who have harmed us.


Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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