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Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift Paperback – May 9, 2016
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Approaching each chapter with honesty and candor, Mr. Schmalz presents a collection of unassuming reflections that can inspire readers to uncover God's mercy in their lives. With each chapter ending with some questions for personal reflection and others for group discussion, the book is also ideal for church groups.
Mercy Matters: Opening yourself to the Life-giving Gift is not the kind of book I normally review because it is not the kind of book I normally read. But, I am very glad I read this book and I am delighted to be able to recommend it.
From the Author
I wrote Mercy Matters for the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. I hope that, by sharing my own experiences of mercy, readers will feel empowered to share their own stories of mercy. The book is designed for book club and group discussions, as well as for private study and reflection. You can read an interview with me about the book in America Magazine: bit.ly/1TYzdTE
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Top Customer Reviews
The author writes in the intro, “…to understand mercy is to see it at work throughout the complexity of human life.” To foster our understanding of mercy, the author invites the reader into his life, sharing with the reader certain human experiences and reflections on the various ways mercy appeared in his life and the different ways he perceives mercy. While doing so, he also poses interesting questions. Readers are given an opportunity to put themselves in his shoes and reflect on times that the reader may have had such similar experiences and perhaps now recognize or question the role and presence/absence of mercy in such experiences.
I would highly recommend this book, especially for the perspectives presented and the questions raised in the chapter "Mercy and Forgiveness" on the Boston Marathon terrorist attack.
I don't want to come across just as a cheerleader, and let me disclose I have had a ten-year-plus association with the author including publishing work by him in a magazine I previously edited and having him as a guest on a podcast I host, but this book truly did catch me off guard because of its deeply personal accounts of genuine wrestling and coming, sometimes kicking and screaming, into its insights. It's rare to encounter that and it deserves our attention and our appreciation Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift. I'd love to see it also discovered by various spiritual writing awards committees.
Even though the year of mercy that inspired such a book is over, Mercy Matters: Opening Yourself to the Life-Changing Gift by Mathew N. Schmalz remains a worthwhile read. Setting up as a series of stories makes it much easier for us to apply it to our everyday life.
Schmalz’s stories come from everyday American life, from his experience as a missionary, and from discussing exceptional events like the Boston Marathon bombing with others. They hold a personal touch because they are all experiences within his own life and not just abstract examples.
He brings out certain moral and religious values from the stories. However, starting with the stories, some of which show him receiving mercy or imperfectly practicing it, allows him to avoid a huge pitfall of books on moral issues: his voice comes across offering hope to the reader and not as insisting on perfection from the reader. Even the few times the story shows him properly practicing mercy, his reflection is about all those factors which helped him do so not about how great he was.
Now, a few specific points about what mercy is that he presents.
He points out, “Compassion is co-suffering – recognizing and experiencing the interconnectedness of love and longing, anger and disappointment. Mercy comes in when you accept the whole thing – and the whole person.” Thus, mercy comes from a place of sharing the other’s burdens.
He shares a long story about having to kick a man out of a drug recovery program and send him to a homeless shelter because drugs were found in his system in a urine test. He struggles with how this could possibly be merciful. In the end, he realizes sometimes loving another means trying to show them who they are when they can’t face it themselves, and certain forms of love can only be given to someone who has a certain degree of self-awareness.
This story shows the need to give mercy to all, both perpetrator and victim. This comes out in his discussion of the Boston Marathon bombing. “Mercy to the killers [the Tsarnaev brothers] might be a way of responding to violence by breaking the cycle of recrimination and revenge. But that very same mercy also ran the risk of another kind of violence by insulting the many victims in the memory of those were killed.”
Near the end he gives an important point about the value of forgiving: “Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but a strength; forgiveness is not resignation, it is hope.”
So, if you struggle with practicing mercy, I would highly recommend this book as a way to learn about this wonderful virtue.
Note: originally published on my blog.