A truth about us as human beings is that we desire justice and not mercy. Yet we have been taught that God desires mercy. He said so himself. And today, Divine Mercy Sunday, we are reminded that Our Lord’s mercy is larger than not only all of our sins, but of all of the sins of the entire world. Past, present, and future.
About a year ago, I wrote that I had decided to break my fast from being merciful. I’m not about to claim that I was successful in that endeavor completely. I’m nowhere near merciful enough. But I keep walking down that road. I haven’t fled it, assuming I was in a dead-end. Instead, I walk through it purposefully, as if it were the valley of the shadow of death.
Which leads me to Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Scene One, Act Four. I never memorized this speech of Portia’s, but I may give it a go now. Here are the lines given by her, disguised as a barrister, addressing Shylock, who desires the pound of flesh promised by his debtor Antonio.
The quality of mercy is not strained.
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.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
Once again, ol’ William proves that he understood more than we thought he knew of the Divine Mercy. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors? Or do we instead lust for the proverbial, if not the actual, pound of flesh? As we measure, so shall we be measured.
And how about another take on mercy, both of God’s and Shakespeare’s version, from the stylings of Michelle Shocked? Shockingly good stuff, indeed.
Lord, help me to remember your teaching: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.