‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced: they will mourn for him as for an only son, and weep for him as people weep for a firstborn child.”
The words of the prophet Zechariah, written some two centuries before the birth of Christ, promised a new beginning for God’s people. This mysterious figure, “the one whom they have pierced”, would herald a new beginning for Jerusalem. “Over the house of David and the citizens of Jerusalem I will pour a spirit of kindness and prayer.”
This tragic figure, who would take to himself the violence of a sinful and broken world, would find its fulfilment in Jesus, whose wounded side opened the fountain of the Father’s mercy.
Here we begin to understand what lies at the heart of divine mercy. Mercy does not seek an eye for an eye, nor a tooth for a tooth. Mercy is rooted in a truly divine generosity that forgives without counting the cost; that is willing to take to itself the pain of a sinful world.
We who are called to become merciful as the Father is merciful are called to the same selfless generosity. When Peter acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ of God”, Jesus immediately underlined the cost of discipleship. He who was destined to suffer grievously and to be put to death called all his disciples to the same selfless generosity.
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”
Our schooling in mercy, which is at the centre of the Cross, is a daily occurrence.
It takes place whenever a spirit of vindication surrenders itself to kindness, whenever judgment gives way to understanding and compassion.
This promised “spirit of kindness” does not come easily to sinful hearts. Indeed, it comes only from God, and is witnessed by the daily acts in which we die to self and live for the Lord. We can choose to fill our days with such moments.