by Henrylito D. Tacio
IN Jane Shore, author Nicholas Rowe wrote:
“Think not the good,
The gentle deeds of mercy thou hast done,
Shall die forgotten all; the poor, the prisoner,
The fatherless, the friendless, and the widow,
Who daily owe the bounty of thy hand,
Shall cry to Heaven, and pull a blessing on thee.”
The dictionary defines mercy as “compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power.” It also means clemency. A young man in the French army committed a deed so terrible that it was worthy of death. The day before he was scheduled for the firing squad, the young man’s mother went to Napoleon Bonaparte. She pleaded for mercy for her son.
Hearing her pleas, Napoleon replied, “Woman, your son does not deserve mercy.” The woman answered, “I know.” She paused and then continued, “If my son deserved it then it would not be mercy.”
Mercy also means “a disposition to be kind and forgiving” as in a heart full of mercy. It may also mean a blessing or “something for which to be thankful.” At one time, a family with six members figured in an accident. Fortunately, no one perished in the fatal incident. “It was a mercy that no one was hurt,” an observer was quoted as saying.
Remember the movies like Schinder’s List and The Diary of Anne Frank? Taking in those refugees was an act of mercy. Mercy in this case is an “alleviation of distress; relief.” The Holy Bible tells us that those who are merciful are blessed “for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Synonyms for mercy include leniency, lenity, clemency and charity. Leniency and lenity imply mildness, gentleness, and often a tendency to reduce punishment. “When you have gone too far to recede, do not sue [appeal] to me for leniency,” wrote Charles Dickens. “Lenity will operate with greater force, in some instances, than rigor,” said George Washington. “It is therefore my first wish to have my whole conduct distinguished by it.”
Clemency is mercy shown by someone with judicial authority. “Clemency is one of the brightest diamonds in the crown of majesty,” William Secker noted. Charity, on the other hand, is goodwill and benevolence in judging others. “But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves?” Thomas Browne asked.
At some point in our lives, we all need mercy. We all mess up. We all say foolish things that are better left unsaid. Every one of us has done something we wish we could go back and undo. When that happens, we know we deserve to pay the consequences for our thoughtlessness. That friend we let down shouldn’t trust again. The parent we disobeyed should punish us. The person we’ve offended should never forgive us.
Now, what if you are the one being wronged? Sure, you’re best friend has courted your girlfriend and she accepted him. Of course, your sister did an irresponsible thing. Your parents never consider your feeling when they have given the land you have been asking from them to your other good-for-nothing brother.
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller reminded, “As freely as the firmament embraces the world, so mercy must encircle friend and foe. The sun pours forth impartially his beams through all the regions of infinity; heaven bestows the dew equally on every thirsty plant. Whatever is good and comes from on high is universal and without reserve: but in the heart’s recesses darkness dwells.”
In Act 4, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice, British playwright William Shakespeare immortalized these lines:
“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.
It is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre 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 sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.”
Allow me then to share this very popular story. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. The servant did not have enough to pay his debt. So, the king ordered that he would be sold as a slave. Not only him, but also his wife and his children and all that he possesses so that he can pay his debt.
The servant fell on his knees before the king. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay you everything!” The king showed mercy to the servant. He decided to forgive him the debt and let him go. “You can go now,” he told him. “Your debt has been forfeited.”
The servant went out from the palace. Along the way, he met a fellow servant, who owed him a few dollars. Immediately, he grabbed him and started choking him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he said.
The fellow servant fell down and begged him. “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!” But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt.
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him the story. Hearing this, the king called the servant in. “You worthless slave,” the king shouted. “I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.”
The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.
If the above story sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s taken from the Holy Bible (Matthew 18:23-34).
Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes commented: “Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.” Edward Reynolds adds, “God’s mercy is a holy mercy, which knows how to pardon sin, not to protect it; it is a sanctuary for the penitent, not for the presumptuous.”
As stated earlier, mercy also means “compassion for the unfortunate.” And that was what Mother Teresa had shown when she was still alive on this planet. She once attended a gathering with kings and presidents and statesmen from all over the world. They were there in their crowns and jewels and silks and the Nobel Peace Prize winner wore her sari held together by a safety pin.
One of the noblemen spoke to her of her work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. At one point, he asked her if she didn’t become discouraged because she saw so few successes in her ministry.
“No, I do not become discouraged,” Mother Teresa answered. “You see, God has not called me to a ministry of success. He has called me to a ministry of mercy.”
In a speech delivered in 1865, Abraham Lincoln observed, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” — ###