Misericordia. It’s one of those false cognates in Spanish. It sounds like it would mean misery, what you experience in the valleys. In a way, it is what you experience in the valleys, but it’s not negative. It’s the gift you receive the in the valley, mercy.
This word is painted on restored wood, now hanging on the wall in the clinic in Las Pitas, and I thought “surely they would not hang the word miserable on the wall of a place where suffering people come for healing.” It must mean something else. I hear it in our prayers during devotional, it is written in scripture. God, have mercy of us. But what is mercy, what is my relation to mercy, what is Misericordia?
The word comes from two bases in Latin. “Miseriae” signifies misery, suffering, great distress or discomfort. “Cordia” represents the heart, the central and innermost part of something. When suffering and the heart meet, it is a noun, a thing that causes change when it is given and received. And this is the truth about mercy. It is given, and in its gift, the heart of the giver takes on the suffering of the receiver with compassion. The receiver is removed from the weight of misery because of the giver. This is God.
God is mercy.
His heart extends mercy to us, meeting us in the valley with a mercy that absorbs our misery so experienced in a fallen world. Mercy is a gift not given because it is deserved or earned, rather it reflects the heart of the giver. A heart that takes on the suffering of others to lighten the load the sufferer carries, regardless of their efforts. And He doesn’t have to give mercy, there is no obligation of God towards us to show mercy, there is no thing we can offer Him that He needs from us. He doesn’t provide mercy to us because he has to; God is merciful on us because He wants us, He loves us, He desires our love of Him. His mercy given reflects His affection toward us. He gave us His son in an act of mercy.
Jesus is mercy.
His heart, faultless and without shame, took on the weight of sin through death. Not because man had proved his worth, but because of His heart for man, Jesus opened His heart to carry our suffering, having mercy on our sin. His gift of mercy on us in the valley which was deeper than we can ever come to know, altered our standing before The Lord. But, He didn’t leave us there, one and done. Though the death and resurrection of Jesus covered the earth and everything under the sun in mercy and forgiveness, His heart for us in our misery continues.
The Holy Spirit is mercy.
Residing in you is the Spirit of Your Lord, the guider of the Holy Trinity. His prompts on your heart lead you daily. And when you stray, His twinge guides you back to the cross, to your Merciful Savior who is never through with you, but continually meeting you in the valley each time you visit. We know this by the declaration of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-23, saying:
The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The word new here could seem contradictory. How could something be given daily, continually, and still be new? (Jon Bloom tackles this questions much better than I could here) Because it is fresh; rekindled fire does not look the same as the original, but it provides the needed warmth. It is new. This kind of love, daily new, is hard for us to imagine. The third time your co-worker asks you to help her load the copier with paper, you do it. But you meet her out of obligation, and likely with some sense of frustration, because you’ve given her this lesson twice already and she should be able to maintain the copier on her own by now. But God doesn’t act like us. When we come to Him the 70th time, the 700th time, with our dirty hands and stained souls, He ushers us in with mercy, without hesitation or resignation in the fact that He has already granted us mercy countless times. His mercy is new for us every morning, in every moment.
So yes, Misericordia should be hanging on the wall of a clinic where suffering people come for healing, because this word is available for all of us, the physically sick and the sick in heart, so that healing can reach us at a soul-level, at a place where mercy is so needed.
“Man is redeemed not by his meritorious efforts but by the unmerited gift of unbounded love expressed by God’s ineffable mercy.” Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg.