All things medical seem to be on the minds of many people today. There’s hardly a single news broadcast that doesn’t feature a story about it. Will there be adequate healthcare for the elderly, will families be able to afford coverage for their children, and will employers continue to offer insurance if there’s a public option, and so on? So, as I said, these seem to be very fearful and anxious times.
We are told that the answer to our fears is to just stay healthy. We are told that much of what we suffer could have been prevented. It’s just a matter of lifestyle choices. Therefore, it may be that in the future, our insurance and its cost will be tied to the lifestyle that we choose. I read somewhere that some states are trying to tie the cost of your premium to your BMI, or body mass index.Just the other day, I heard a dialogue between a student and a college administrator about the college’s new policy of making obese students take a class on losing weight or they would not be allowed to graduate.
So, preventive medicine may be just what the doctor ordered.I wonder though, if we all took better care of ourselves, would there be a need for so many doctors? I sometimes kid people by saying when we part company, “Stay out of trouble.” Then I add, “Well, I’m not sure about that because if you stay out of trouble, then I’ll be out of a job.”They just look back and smile. If we all stayed well, as much as possible, what would doctors do for a living?
We often speak of the Church as our spiritual hospital and that we are here because we are sick. There is preventative medicine –like prayer, fasting, and study-but because of our lifestyle choices, we have not followed the path to health. So, what would the Doctor order?
The Pharisees grumbled when Jesus went into the house of Matthew, the writer of the Gospel. After all, he was a tax collector, and they were the most hated people of all. Why would anyone in their right mind enter into a place filled with such uncleanness and spiritual disease? It is here that the Lord reminds them that the sick need a doctor.Then the Great Physician gives us his prescription: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”Mercy – this is a strange recommendation for the spiritually sick, or is it?
Every time we come to the Church, in fact any time we turn to the Lord, he meets us with mercy and not with judgment. If this were not so, then despair would most certainly kill us. Mercy renews us and strengthens us to continue our battle towards salvation.Yet, is the Lord’s mercy the only thing that Jesus meant? He did say earlier that the merciful would obtain mercy. So, mercy is something that we are to show as well.How might mercy be the very thing that the doctor ordered?
First, I can show mercy to myself.
I start with myself because I have found that if I have little mercy for myself, I will not be able to show it to others. I don’t mean that I simply justify and excuse everything that I do. I mean that I need to show mercy to my soul. I constantly hand my soul over to the robbers who take away for it everything that is good and leave my soul wounded and bleeding. Like the Samaritan, I could bind and dress my soul’s wounds. I could give it a little time to pray, a few morsels of spiritual reading, or an occasional visit to the hospital. Is that so hard to do? Why then, am I so reluctant to be merciful to myself? Like the Sadducee, the Pharisee, and the Scribe in the story of the Good Samaritan, I just pass by and show no mercy to my soul.I am too busy to bother.By showing no mercy to my soul, I find I have no mercy for others because my poor beaten and starve soul has nothing to give.
Then, I can show mercy to my family.
It used to be said that charity begins at home. I use to jest if charity begins at home, it usually stays at home. Yet, in truth, if I cannot show mercy at home, it is likely that I will not show it elsewhere.I used to counsel married couples who had a Christian orientation that they should try to practice the Sermon on the Mount in their marital
relationship.If Jesus said that if an enemy compels us to go one mile, we should go two. If we are struck on one check, then turn the other. Most Christians would acknowledge that this is the way a Christian should act; yes that is until the Christian gets home, and then mercy sits outside the door. Disagreements occur between all loving couples and between parents and children.We all fail each other continually and the lack of mercy in a family can be shocking.I also counseled many couples bound for divorce, and not long into the interview, it was clear that mercy never lived in the house.
I can show mercy to my priest and to my Church.
The same truth applies here. If I cannot show mercy at Church, it is unlikely that I will show it elsewhere. Of course, disagreements are natural and we fail each other constantly.Yet, you would think that people seeking mercy from God would easily show mercy to each other.I would ask you to take a moment and look at your brothers and sisters in Church. What do you really know about them? What sorrows and burdens do they carry? If you don’t have a clue, then you never have to show mercy by binding up their wounds.Does your priest have wounds as well? I guarantee you that he does, and he has many burdens to carry. When you offer to lift them a little, you show mercy to your priest.
Finally, I can show mercy the stranger and to my neighbor.
If I am merciful to myself, merciful to my family, and merciful to my church family, then I am better able to be merciful to strangers or to my neighbor.Again, we must be honest. What do we know about our neighbors other than that they are bothersome and irritating at times?The Lord said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. God help me then because I don’t love my neighbors at all. Frankly I don’t really know much about them. If they have some personal problem, I’m sure that I’ll be the last to know. Life could beat them up and I wouldn’t see them because mercy does not guide my vision. If I am a merciful person, then I would have a merciful eye that would see the wounds in the manby the side of the road
“Go learn this,” the Great Doctor says. “I desire mercy instead of sacrifice. Happy are you when you show mercy, for you shall obtain mercy.”