In Review: Beautiful Mercy

Faith informs us that our all-powerful God can, at any time, overtake our problems, our pain and our imperfect lives and replace those troubles with His peace, love and joy. But it has been my experience that God finds great joy when He can move into His people’s lives individually through each one of us. He seems to relish the moments when we bring His peace, love and joy into the everyday experiences of our own brothers and sisters.

In the book, Beautiful Mercy, 27 Catholic authors share short stories and messages that give us a glimpse of God’s plan to shower us first with His mercy, and then use us as a conduit to spread that same divine mercy to others. Divided into the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, the book leads the reader to quickly ask: “Am I doing my part?” Early on, Matthew Kelly reminds us that making ourselves available to God’s work is a prerequisite for our Catholic mission. He begs us to imagine the world where everyone experiences and then shares God’s mercy on a daily basis.

The introduction, written by Pope Francis, invites us to contemplate that Jesus is the face of mercy. God cordially invites us to receive the Father in the visible and living Jesus Christ. And because His Holy Spirit dwells within us, mercy – God’s divine mercy – dwells deep within each of our hearts as well. As you might imagine, reading the Holy Father’s comments will challenge us.

Filled with Sacred Scripture, the book begins with a meandering through the Corporal Works of Mercy as the authors share stories and their own understanding of the reality of God’s mercy. The Bible tells us His mercies come to us new every morning to equip us with forgiveness and compassion so we can find ways to spread the same into the lives of others.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the real life ways we can physically touch people with food, clothing and shelter. In addition, we are reminded there are others ways to spread compassion and love. Some are indeed hungry for food to eat. Still many are hungry for love and companionship. Some are starving for a word of hope in their stressful lives, others are craving to know Jesus but we’ve failed to introduce him to them. Answers to that question: “Am I doing my part?” come quickly and often while reading this book. It caused me to reflect on the encounters with Jesus I experience in the sacraments and how easy it is to hold him within myself and not share him with others.

Part two offers examples of how we can live the Spiritual Works of Mercy each day. These are the activities where we give comfort, counsel, prayer and forgiveness to all we meet. Sometimes, in our broken humanity, it is much easier to buy someone a meal than it is to forgive his or her sins. Our own ugly sin of being judgmental seems to lurk within each of us and shows its hideous presence at the most inopportune times.
As the authors share their stories, we find that mercy is freeing, hopeful, personal, affirming, comforting, triumphant, sharing, enduring, empowering, humble, faithful, tireless, emphatic, infinite and even scandalous. You will smile, tear up, meditate, pray and talk to Jesus as you read the pages of this book. And throughout, the overall theme is filled with God’s enormous, unconditional and merciful love for each one of us. He cares for you. He wants you to be in constant reconciliation and communion with Him. When we move toward Him, He finds so many ways to comfort us, give us hope and fill us with His peace and joy.

As we approach the mid-point of our Year of Mercy, this book is an excellent resource to begin the second half.

by Mike Van Vranken

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