Mercy is a fundamental tenet of the Christian gospel and its descriptions of the attributes of God, and it certainly is a topic familiar to Latter-day Saints. But how often do we actually reflect upon it? Do we imagine it as simply a quality and an characteristic of God that we, too, should strive to attain and embody? Do we mostly think of it only in relationship to the Atonement and God’s grace?
In a wonderful book, Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift, Mathew N. Schmalz, a Catholic theologian and teacher, as well as a frequent conversation partner with Mormons (including here on Mormon Matters), speaks of these things but also explores mercy in many other deep and compelling ways. What is mercy’s relationship to reconciliation with others, with “letting go” of ego and our desires to be right, with compassion? How might mercy interact in revealing ways with freedom, dignity, kindness, and truth? In the realm of our relationship with God, how does mercy mesh with forgiveness, suffering, death, and life? Mercy Matters explores all of these topics, but for a theological book, it does it in a very unusual way: it is not at all abstract! Instead, it is completely immersed in Schmalz’s own life, featuring reflections on incidents (many very difficult and not the sort of things one typically expects an author to reveal about himself) as well as on various moments of mercy he has experienced. It is personal, and vulnerable, and all the more powerful for it. I highly recommend this book–as do Fiona Givens and Alonzo Gaskill, my conversation partners, along with Mat Schmalz, in this episode. I believe you will enjoy our discussion very much.
Please listen and then share your reflections and questions in the comments section below!
Mathew N. Schmalz, Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2016)