In the ongoing battle against the forces of evil, I think that many Catholics forget to be merciful towards the “killers” of our society. We see the aggressive attacks of those who do not value life on many fronts, abortion, contraception, euthanasia etc. and want to lash back at these people using their same tactics. We may not try to kill these people physically, but we try to wound them with our words, or our looks of condemnation.
Despite our tendency to fight fire with fire, God calls us to a different path. Jesus says that we must “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When those critical of the Church and the culture of life assail us with hate, we must respond in love, for this is how we will win them for Christ.
Recently, I began reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. In his memoirs, he speaks of the fourteen years he spent in a Communist prison in Romania enduring severe beating and tortures because of his belief in Christ. One would think that this experience would cause him to be bitter and unforgiving toward the Communists but it did not.
In the midst of the great killers of his time, he saw that his captors hungered for the love of Christ even if they did not realize it. The more they beat him, the more he showed them the mercy and love of Christ and prayed for the salvation of their souls. Often, the prison guards were converted to Christianity through the example of men like Richard, who overcame evil with good by being Christ to their enemies.
One clear point that Richard touches on in the story is that a merciful person can and should protest the evils around them. Although he showed mercy to the Communists, he was not silent in the midst of the great atrocities they committed.. After his release from prison, he was courageous in condemning the Communist beliefs. Because he loved the Communists, he had to speak out against evil. True mercy then contains both love and truth.
So, how can we demonstrate mercy today? One place that I think especially needs the mercy of Christ is the abortion mills in our country. Often pro-lifers, myself included, will pray rosaries outside abortion mills in an effort to save the lives of the innocent unborn. The presence of pro-lifers at these mills is certainly a witness of the sanctity of life but do those contemplating abortions get a sense that the mercy of God is readily available to them in the moment? I often wonder if my gaze at those who walk into these horrendous places is one of love that can stir their hearts to choose God’s path of life or one of judgment, eager to banish them to hell for their sins?
As we strive to defend the gift of life in a world that often trivialize it,, let us remember that we fight not only against the lies of our opponents but for the salvation of their souls. In the midst of the battle let us recall the great mercy God has shown us to become his children and eagerly share that with others so that many may know the love of Christ.