Spiritual Math - A Thousand Blessings
by Michael Rawls
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest, -
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway, -
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, had a special love for the virtue of mercy. In her words, "mercy is more than charity, for it not only gives benefits but it receives and pardons again and again - even the ungrateful."
In the Christian tradition, there are seven defined ways to demonstrate the virtue of mercy:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Comfort the imprisoned
- Visit the sick
- Bury the dead
However, merciful acts can extend well beyond this list of seven, especially when it comes to extending mercy to one's enemies.
By way of example, in the days of the Revolutionary War there lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, a Baptist pastor by the name of Peter Miller who enjoyed the friendship of General George Washington. There also dwelt in that town one Michael Wittman, an evil-minded man who did all in his power to abuse and oppose this pastor. One day Michael Wittman was involved in treason and was arrested and sentenced to death. The old preacher started out on foot and walked the whole seventy miles to Philadelphia to plead for this man's life. He was admitted into Washington's presence and at once begged for the life of the traitor.
Washington said, "No, Peter, I cannot grant you the life of your friend." The preacher exclaimed, "He is not my friend - he is the bitterest enemy I have." Washington cried, "What? You've walked seventy miles for the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon." And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death back to his own home in Ephrata - no longer as an enemy, but as a friend.
Nearly every day presents opportunities to practice the virtue of mercy - and not once have I had to go as far as seventy miles on foot to fulfill my obligation as a fellow-human and be merciful to others. All I have to do is get in my car and drive a few miles to the interstate during rush-hour traffic. Or walk through the downtown streets during this season that should be joyful, but is not, for so many of the homeless and downtrodden.
Seven major areas in which to practice mercy is a good start, a foundation. Sure, it's a gift from an angel (you) to the hungry, the thirsting, the ill-clothed and homeless, to those who are imprisoned by their choices or by their health. But it is a gift that brings as much happiness to the giver as to the recipient, and there must be at least seventy different ways in which each of those seven acts of mercy can be expressed.
My math teacher in school told me I should make use of what he taught me, so let's do the arithmetic. "Seven times seventy" and "twice blest" - each participant profiting from a single act of mercy.. carry the two, ummmm..... equals... Wow, that means I have at my command nearly a thousand blessings! It's like a chance to be Santa Claus, all year long and I get to keep half of the presents!!!
Being an example of mercy to others is a win-win situation, every time - that's the way it adds up. Ho, ho, ho!
Guidelines for Pious Living
We all want to do things that would please God. But, we often fail to do that as the
worldly thoughts and passions encompass us. As a result, we lose the inner peace and tranquility that is given to those who
are in communion with God. Regular practice is needed to keep off
the evil and stay in communion with God. Here are some
practical suggestions that would help us to reach this goal.
The Heart to Forgive
It is one thing to “say” that we forgive someone, it is quite another to actually do it. Forgiveness is not a state of mind; it is a state of the heart. Being able to forgive someone from a heart level is not something that comes to us naturally. The challenge that we face is in getting our hearts to a point where we can accomplish this.
What’s Holding You Back from Abundant Blessings?
Did you know that the blessings you seek could be right under your nose? All that is needed may be a small token sacrifice on your part.