One of Fr. Thomas McKenna’s previous articles on .famvin titled, “Memories of Mercy,” narrates a beautiful story from the French novel, Les Miserables, Les Mis. It’s about Jean Valjean, and the life he leads in the very turbulent times of 19th Century France. The novel presents Jean as a man who was doing great works of mercy. At the end he even sacrifices his own life to rescue his antagonist, Marius. What drove him to do these generous things? What was his motivation?
And the answer, we get from a flash back scene, in the episcopal dining room when the police haul in Jean Valjean with the bishop’s stolen candlesticks in his red hands and ask the bishop to verify they are his. But instead of reclaiming his precious silver candlesticks, the bishop informs the police that not only had he given his good friend, Jean Valjean these candlesticks, but that Valjean had forgotten to take along these other pieces of silverware the bishop had given him at the same time! It is the memory of this great act of generous mercy shown to him by the bishop moved Valjean to be merciful to the extent of giving of his own life for the sake of mercy.
Pope Francis in his decree on the year of mercy, “Misericordiae Vultus,” affirms that mercy is not only the characteristic of God the Father, but it is also the criterion for knowing who his true children are. “Be Merciful just as your Father in heaven is merciful” (Lk 6:36). We are called to show mercy because, mercy has been first, shown to us. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus tells the unforgiving servant: “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt. 18:33). In the Gospel we also read about the person who was healed by Jesus in Gerasene, and who wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus says to him; “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and what mercy he has shown to you” (Mk 5;19).
Pardoning the offenses of those who offended us is the clearest expression of the merciful love. When we let go our anger and hatred, we become children the Father who is rich in mercy. We become merciful to the extent we gratefully remember the mercies shown to us by God, just as Jean Valjean became merciful remembering the great mercy shown to him by the Bishop. As we are reaching the conclusion of the great jubilee year of Mercy it would be a good spiritual exercise for us to reflect and recollect the events and person through which God showed his tender mercy to us. There by we become witnesses of the mercy of God in our homes and communities.
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.