The winter issue of Vermont Catholic magazine usually focuses on corporal works of mercy such as sharing our food and time, but I am going to focus on mercy in a bigger sense: mercy and forgiveness, mercy and peacemaking, mercy and restoration. These may be more appropriately called spiritual works of mercy.

We have all received mercy from our loving God and savior. Author Matthew Kelly defines mercy as “love reaching out to misery.” God extends love to us in our loneliness, healing in our brokenness, forgiveness for our mistakes and rebellion. He invites us to a deep integration of ourselves into Him, to a love that fills the ache in our hearts.

He also calls us to extend to others the mercy we have received from Him.

We live in a world where mercy is often not lived out, whether that be in a war setting or in our own homes. I often sit stunned as I listen to the abuse, neglect, trauma, and confusion that some of my patients have experienced as children and/or as adults from those who are supposed to love and care for them.

We are all appalled at the recent stories coming from war zones around the globe or the streets and cities of our own country. And on a “lesser” level, we can treat those around us without mercy in our homes, workplace, school, and parishes. We lash out at those we love, especially in our families.

Learning how to be an agent of mercy will transform ourselves and our relationships.

What would happen in our homes and communities if we operated in the following manner?

+ Mercy means helping those around you who are hurting.

+ Mercy means being patient with frustrating people.

+ Mercy means doing good to those who hurt you.

+ Mercy is giving people what they need, not what they deserve.

+ Mercy means being kind to those who offend you.

+ Mercy means building bridges of love to the unpopular, building friendships with people who don’t have friends or who are not accepted in our work or social circles.

+ Mercy means valuing relationship over being right.

+ Mercy means putting a high value on easing conflict.

+ Mercy is ready to serve, not fight.

+ Mercy means giving people a second chance.

We find contentment and satisfaction in sharing our material goods, in helping at the food kitchen or taking a meal to a suffering neighbor, helping with the dirty work of flood clean up, giving of our hard-earned money to poorer families in our communities or in other countries. Let’s add to that by developing mercy in how we talk and relate to those around us, in being an example and extension of God’s great mercy to us.

—Sharon Trani, a nurse practitioner, is a marriage and family therapist with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

—Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.