This morning at Mass, our priest drew from today's readings (Romans 11:29-36 and Luke 14:12-14) to tell a story of God's Mercy shown to him.
The first reading in Romans tells us that "God delivered all to disobedience, so that He might have mercy upon all." The second reading in Luke warns us not to invite the relatives and the wealthy to dinner, with the inevitable rewards of returned hospitality, but to invite the "poor, crippled, lame, blind: blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay..."
Father related that, when he was caring for his severely ill mother, she was incontinent and the house smelled strongly of urine. It embarassed his mother, and one day, when a friend called him and asked to visit and talk, embarassed him in advance. He prayed for humility in the situation, and, when the friend arrived, the friend said without prompting "Why, the house smells like you have roses all through it!" The celebrant told of his gratitude for God's Mercy.
Now, where WAS God's Mercy in this? (1) Did God make the house actually smell of roses? Or (2) did the friend, arriving in the middle of the smell, pretend not to notice and in generosity (perhaps noticing a lone flower in a vase, even) said that the house smelled great? I didn't ask Father after Mass and I probably won't, it's not important.
What's important is that God's Mercy was truly there, whether the friend poured it forth or God did a pleasant small miracle.
The story reminded me that God's Mercy can flow through us in the serene indifference* to someone else's awkwardness, in sensitivity to their embarassment, but not by commiserating or pointing it out and forgiving it. We must avoid the reward of "Wasn't that NICE of Therese to...." and simply proceed as though we were deaf and blind in a world full of little bodily blurps in the elevator.
* I don't mean that in terms of "not caring," WHAT word do I mean? Detachment?
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