Mercy is a key virtue to becoming a Missionary Disciple. In Evangellii Gaudium, Pope Francis introduces the connection between mercy and mission:
The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.
Here are 8 practical ways to make mercy part of your missionary outreach, from Evangelli Gaudium.
1. Take the first step
Jesus did not wait for the disciples to ask him to wash their feet. Mercy is an offensive sport. It looks for opportunities to take the first step in loving others.
2. Abase yourself
Sometimes mercy calls us to humble ourselves, to take a posture of repentance and service to others. This is especially the case when we have wronged others, but it can even be true when we are not at fault.
3. Suffer with others
Mercy often means being present with those who suffer, to walk with them in times of pain and darkness.
4. Smell like the sheep
Mercy challenges us to get out of our comfort zone, to associate with people that make us uncomfortable. We may have to risk our reputation, just like Jesus did, in order to become friends with sinners.
5. Disregard constraints of time
Mercy demands patience. It forces us not to make people into projects.
6. Care for the grain, do not grow inpatient with the weeds
Mercy demands we love people enough to challenge them to grow in holiness. At the same time mercy calls us to be infinitely patience with people’s sins and shortcomings.
7. Put it all on the line
When the father of the Prodigal Son saw his son returning, he did not pause to think how his son would receive him. He rushed out and lavished his love and mercy on him.
8. Celebrate victories, even small ones
Conversion and repentance rarely happens overnight. Be on the lookout for small victories and celebrate them so as to encourage the journey of faith.