Divine Mercy and Compassion

The gospel today is Luke’s account of the blind man on the roadside who cries out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  The underlying word is eléos – I don’t know why they translate it as “pity” – the meaning is “to show mercy,” indicating a response roused by an undeserved affliction in others. It denotes a kindness resulting from a relationship. 

In our penitential rite we pray “Kyrie Eleison.” Lord have mercy. Eléos is the mercy that the Good Samaritan shows to the wounded, robbed person he had never met. Eléos is the word used to describe the Hebrew hesed – the mercy of God, divine mercy. In its original use, mercy/hesed/eléos was associated with requests of essential, vital help which the person is unable to attain by themselves. The one to whom the request is addressed is able to assist and must make the free moral choice to commit – not the action – but to the person in need – the willingness to enter into a relationship. Such is divine mercy, divine compassion – it is fundamentally about relationships.

A relationship of mercy that is so much more than pity. Allowing some poetic license …there is no pity in God …there is only merciful compassion. A mercy which forgives – not because we are good, but because God is good. A mercy which loves – because God is good. A mercy which is not limited, not a scarce resource, but a mercy which is infinite – a fountain fullness, overflowing of grace into our world, into our lives.

The suffering, troubled and poor of Prince William County, our state, our nation and our world do not need our pity. They need the divine, merciful compassion Jesus bestows on Bartimeus. In this time and place, we are the conduits of that Divine Mercy and Compassion into this world.


Image Credit: BibleProject.com, Public Domain

A little more…

Please take a moment to watch this wonderful 5-minute video on the Compassion of God from the good folks at BibleProject.com. While the above reflection focused on the Greek of the New Testament, this video looks at the Hebrew Scriptures to explore the Divine Mercy and Compassion of God. It begins with a description of the character of God expressed in Exodus 34:6 in which rakhum, “compassion” is the first attribute given – a word related to the Hebrew word for “womb,” rekhem conveying the deep love of mother for child.

Describing God

God describes himself in Exodus 34:6-7. In this passage, the first word God uses to describe himself is compassionate, or in Hebrew, rakhum. This word has fascinating connections in the Hebrew Bible and is actually related to the Hebrew word for “womb.” God’s compassion is active and nurturing and at the core of who he is.

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The Lord Provides: compassion

fish-and-loavesThe miraculous feeding of the a very large number of people in the wilderness is one miracle that is told in each of the four canonical gospels. Despite the consistency of the narrative there are, in every age, those who reject the miraculous (Jesus inspired the people to share) or dismiss the narrative as apocryphal – or at best an altered memory of a large feast that imaged the coming banquet of the Kingdom. Keener (403) points out that nothing would be more memorable than a feeding miracle, especially in the context of the culture of their day. Keener offers four points: Continue reading