Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Patty, being how she was, gave some explicit instructions for her funeral, and she asked that I preach specifically on mercy and hope. At the end of her life Patty thought a lot about mercy. She was so aware of the mercy she had been shown by her caregivers and family and friends, and she hoped and relied upon the mercy she believed would be shown her by God.
It is significant that Patty died only two hours after Divine Mercy Sunday. She received her final holy communion that day, her food for the journey. The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And he wants us to recognize that his mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon him with trust, receive his mercy, and let it flow through us to others.
The message of mercy is hope. Mercy is giving us something we probably don’t deserve and definitely do not earn. It is a gift freely given with nothing expected in return. We can never earn God’s love or eternal life. He offers it to us freely just because we are so valuable in his eyes. And we show our love for him and appreciation of the gift simply by accepting it. We are all given that choice and all we have to do is say yes. God desperately wants us to say yes. He has gone to such great lengths to show his love for us and to give us that hope.
We Christians are people of hope. Here we are in the middle of the Easter season, where we remember and celebrate the greatest sign of hope in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for us, so that where he is we also should be. In the resurrection we see our future, and that future was purchased at a great price paid through Jesus’ suffering and death.
Jesus said that if we are to be his disciples we need to take up our cross daily and follow him. We all have our crosses to bear, and we have to take them up whether we like it or not. But we also know that the evil reality of suffering can be turned to good, because the evil of Jesus’ suffering was turned to the ultimate good of our redemption. I think Patty understood that, and she sought to offer her own sufferings up for the good of others. Just like Jesus, she did not run away from her cross, but offered it up as a prayer, a very powerful prayer. It was a way to find the mercy and the promise behind the suffering.
Most of us do not do mighty deeds, we do small things out of love. And we experience God’s mercy most in our lives through the little mercies we give to others and receive from others. Those tender mercies shown through kindness.
The mercy shown by a husband who watches over his wife for years and years, patiently protecting her, caring for her smallest needs, being a foundation of stability in the midst of chaos.
The mercy shown by a daughter who is always there, who reordered her life to be there for her mother, especially at the end. Who is a source of great strength to her father.
The mercy shown by a team of doctors who truly care and show compassion, who became true friends.
The mercy shown by friends who send little notes, bring food, and pray so fervently for a cure and for peace.
The mercy shown by the afflicted to their caregivers, allowing people to love them, to help them, to forgive them and reconcile with them.
It is those simple mercies that give us simple hope and help us get through each day. Hope that this treatment will work and when it fails, that the next one will. Hope that I will feel better today than yesterday. And even in the face of disappointment hope does not falter because of our ultimate hope. Death is a reality for us all, and we all know that no matter what we do to delay it, in the end we will lose that battle, but we take comfort in our belief that there is something more, something good and holy and peaceful, where we can take our rest after our struggles. We believe that Jesus’ death redeemed us and made an end to death itself for us all.
Patty talked a lot about unfinished business, of reconciliation and redemption, of healing, not just physically but of relationships. She prayed so hard for that. She prayed for each and every one of you in this church today, just as so many of you prayed for her.
I think the most powerful and meaningful way we show mercy to one another is through forgiveness. Forgiving someone, especially when they don’t deserve it or even don’t want it, is the highest form of mercy. And so many times it is so difficult to do so because the hurt can run so deep. And the way we best experience God’s love is through the forgiveness we receive from those we have hurt.
Patty trusted in God’s mercy. She had to. In the end, that’s all she had. That’s all we will have. Every human being has a desire for immortality. We all want to leave a legacy behind. Even if we profess no belief in God, we want everlasting life in the memories of those we have touched and influenced in our lives. Two days before she died, I asked Patty how she wanted to be remembered, and she said as being a person of hope. She said that was her final wish for each one of you, also. She wanted you to have what she had; hope based upon faith.
We all run the race. We all start from different places, and some have a harder race than others. It doesn’t matter if we veer off course during the race. What matters is how we finish. Patty ran the race and finished well, as an example to us all.
That may be the tenderest mercy.