17 March, 2020

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…

~ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice ~

Daniel 3:2,11-20; Psalm 25; Matthew 18:21-35

Mercy is the theme that threads itself through the readings today. To receive mercy is to receive a gift we know we do not ever really deserve. It is an extraordinary experience of being loved and freed which restores a sense of relationship and hope. There is something energising about the experience of mercy. It naturally awakens in us a desire to try again because of the deep sense of gratitude one feels. It is the experience of sin and of mercy that often shakes us out of an apathetic following of Christ and is transformative.


This dynamic is so evident in the musical and movie Les Miserables. The main character, Jean Valjean, has been jailed with hard labour for years for stealing a loaf of bread when he was starving. When he is eventually released, he cannot find work. Starving and in despair, a kindly bishop gives him hospitality for the night. In desperation he steals some of the Bishop’s silverware and makes off with it. The police arrest him and drag him back to the Bishop’s house. In an act of extraordinary mercy the Bishop tells the police that the silverware was not stolen but was a gift to Valjean and that, in addition, he wants him to have the two expensive silver candlesticks he had “forgotten” as well. This experience of abundant mercy provides the impetus for Valjean to start a whole new life.


By its nature, mercy has no limits. Mercy is a key attribute of God and also a quality we are called to show in our relationship with others. There is the expectation and hope that God will receive us with gentleness and mercy, because that is who God is, but there is also the invitation for us to become more like the God of mercy ourselves. Where a relationship remains destructive to us we may need to keep a distance to protect ourselves, while at the same time, remembering the mercy God has shown us, asking that his mercy may spill over allowing us to forgive and to experience the freedom mercy brings.


Gracious God,


May I remember and savour the gift of your mercy.


Help me to seek out your mercy knowing that you never tire of forgiving me.


May it make me more merciful to those in my life.




Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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