You probably won’t understand mercy until you’ve needed it. When I was found guilty of murder I thought my life was over. I was in Texas, a state not known for its leniency. I couldn’t believe it when the jury said 10 years. That was mercy.
Since that day, I have fallen deeper and deeper into mercy. For those ten years I was completely powerless. I was at the mercy of the guards, gangs, and my family. I discovered the reality of what Thomas Merton said, “Mercy within mercy, within mercy.” It is a humbling experience to say the least. Not having any power. No control over anything.
Mercy, like forgiveness, is unearned. It isn’t owed you, and you don’t deserve it. It is the same when it comes to God. His forgiving mercy is a total gift. It is easy to think of God as only grudgingly forgiving. That He merely tolerates us, and is merciful toward us because His son died for us. Many churches even teach this. I have come to believe that self-sacrifical love, mercy, and forgiveness are the very heart of God. His mercy is a complete gift given out of pure love. It isn’t something we, or anyone else, not even Jesus, could ever earn. It doesn’t depend on our worthiness or purity. There’s no buying or selling of God’s love in the Temple. That’s the symbol of Jesus kicking over the tables: the buying and selling of God is over.
We do not earn anything by our own holiness, but by tens of thousands of surrenders to mercy. A lifetime of received forgiveness allows you to become mercy. That’s what this beatitude is about. You will become forgiveness, because it is the only thing that makes sense. After years of surrender you become free to receiving it, and free to give it without any payment or punishment.