Year of Mercy: Wealth Blocks Mercy

(15) Pope Francis echoes Jesus’ concern that riches can make it difficult to enter the Kingdom of Heaven–difficult to practice the Kingdom virtue of mercy.  This is consistent with the Pope’s concern about the danger of riches with respect to life in general as God intends it to be.  Why does he have this concern, particularly with respect to mercy?

It begins with the indifference that can result from wealth–a kind of, “I got mine, why don’t you get yours?–an indifference which quickly turns into cynicism–“Why should I be merciful to deadbeats and dropouts?”

When cynicism has taken hold, it is difficult to see the misery of others, and their plight must somehow be defined as their fault. When this happens, the nerve of mercy is severed–and in the end, cynicism turns destructive as the poor, suffering, and marginalized are now seen as threats to the power and prosperity of the rich.

Pope Francis calls for a return in the Church to the works of mercy (in the Wesleyan tradition these are the prudential means of grace)–acts which express compassion because our hearts have been re-awakened by conscience–conscience under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  And as the Pope reminds us, these works of mercy are the very criteria Jesus said would be applied at the end of the age to judge the holiness of our lives.

Mercy is loved shown toward anyone who has failed to receive it from other sources.  Mercy is what we are intended to give to others because grace is what has been given to us by God.  We must not allow the economics of our life to become the god of our life, lest mercy becomes suffocated under a pile of money.

[Note: the numbers at the beginning of each meditation correspond to the section of the Pope’s document on which it is based]

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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