United Church of Christ

Mercy

"Jesus showed himself again to his disciples by the sea [where they had gone fishing]. When they came ashore, they saw a charcoal fire, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.'" - John 21:1,9,12

Maybe you followed the recent story of twelve boys and a coach trapped in a cave. First it was a story about whether they'd be found. Then about whether they'd make it out. Then, thankfully, about heroic rescue, triumphant success.

But for me, it was first a story about tempting fate. About a failure of responsibility. Why did they go in there with monsoons looming? How could the coach have allowed it, much less led them in? If they died in that lightless underworld, Ekapol Chanthawong would be to blame.

One of the waiting mothers saw it differently: "If he didn't go with them, what would have happened to my child? My dear Ek, I could never blame you." Then she added, "When he comes out, we have to heal his heart."

When someone emerges from a cave (any cave—we trap ourselves in so many), awash in guilt, expecting reprisal, knowing they deserve reproach, you could pile on, rub their noses in their recklessness, strap shame to their back, make them carry it forever.

Especially if they were careless with you, betrayed you or left you to suffer alone, you could tell them they don't deserve you, that you don't love them now.

Or you could build a fire while they're still lost and ashamed. You could lay on fish and bread. And when they approach, aiming to kneel, wanting to own the damage and pain, you could tell them to wait until you feed them. You could say, "Come and have breakfast."

You could make someone pay. Or you could heal their heart. And your own.

Prayer

Heal my heart, good Jesus. It defaults to blame. Make it all mercy. Like your own.

About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.

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