Be Merciful

Blessed are they who show mercy;
mercy shall be theirs.

Matthew 5:7

Many beautiful churches, mosques and chapels flank the holy places within Israel’s borders. The Mount of the Beatitudes is no exception. The Church of The Beatitudes was built in 1938 for the Franciscan Sisters. Our guide shared an unexpected aspect of the building’s history. It was funded by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Though history seems to indicate otherwise, I hope that Jesus who first spoke The Beatitudes touched this tyrant in some way.

Our guide also pointed out that the dome of this church is eight-sided. Each side depicts one of Jesus’ “Blest are…” statements. As I consider Jesus’ radical stance in viewing the most troubled of us as blessed, I cannot help thinking of Mussolini and the many other dictators who have ravaged our world. Mussolini seems to have been inspired by his father who was an outspoken anti-cleric. Why did his father’s message take hold over everything else he learned?

I cannot explain Mussolini’s actions any more than I can explain those of the others who have marred our history with their atrocities. However, I think I can explain Jesus’ thinking when he encountered such evildoing. It was sixty years ago. My widowed aunt and her children lived in the flat below us. It was late at night when a mugger brutally beat my aunt as she returned from her job cleaning office buildings downtown. The following morning, my mother told us what had happened. We scrambled down the stairs to wish our aunt well. Bruised and disfigured as she was, my aunt told us, “I’m praying hard for that guy. Can you imagine the terrible things that must have happened to him to make him do this to me? You need to pray for him, too.”

When Jesus looked into the eyes of the suffering and of those who caused that suffering, he saw everything that brought them to the moment at hand. Today, I’ll pray for all of us who are doing terrible things to others and I’ll pray for their victims. I’ll also replace my own unkind urges with mercy. I can’t afford to contribute any more suffering to this world of ours. None of us can.

Merciful God, give us loving and merciful hearts like yours.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Merciful at Every Turn

Blessed are they who show mercy;
mercy shall be theirs.

Matthew 5:7

Though Israel is the home of the Jewish People, many beautiful churches, mosques and chapels flank the holy places within its borders. The Mount of the Beatitudes is no exception. The Church of The Beatitudes was built in 1938 for the Franciscan Sisters. An unexpected aspect of the building’s history is that it was funded by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Perhaps this church is one result of Mussolini’s efforts to build a relationship with the Catholic Church in order to strengthen his regime. By 1938, he seemed to have done well in that regard, yet he built this church. I can only hope that the One who first spoke The Beatitudes eventually touched him in some way.

Our guide pointed out that many of the important worship spaces in Israel have unique domes. The dome of the Church of the Beatitudes is eight-sided. Each side depicts one of the beatitudes. As I consider Jesus’ radical stance in viewing the most troubled of us as blessed, I cannot help thinking of Mussolini and the many other dictators who have ravaged our world. Mussolini seems to have been inspired by his father who was an outspoken anti-cleric. Why did his father’s message take hold over everything else he learned?

I cannot explain Mussolini’s actions any more than I can explain those of the mugger who tried to beat my aunt to death almost sixty years ago. Afterward, my aunt told me, “I’m praying hard for that guy. Can you imagine the terrible things that must have happened to him to make him do this to me?”

Today, I will pray for all of us who are doing terrible things to others. I’ll also replace my own unkind urges with kindness. I can’t afford to contribute any more terrible things to this world of ours. None of us can.

Merciful God, give us loving and merciful hearts like yours.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved