When people criticized Jesus for dining with sinners and selecting tax collector Matthew to be a disciple, Jesus cited Hosea 6.6, “Learn what this means, ‘I (God) desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I have come to call, not the righteous, but sinners.”

By traditional practices sinners and tax collectors were to be shunned by polite society; religious leaders were to avoid them like the plague. Yet Jesus welcomed such people; his love transformed their lives. They brought considerable talents to the Christian community.

It is merciful to forgive, but mercy is far more than that. Mercy includes anything that alleviates suffering. Certainly those who need to be forgiven suffer, and their suffering eases once they are forgiven. People afflicted with various maladies asked Jesus for mercy, for end to their suffering.

When we walk through the valley with someone who suffers, we extend mercy. When we listen, and offer hope, when we share our faith, we offer mercy. Feeding the hungry and helping the homeless extends mercy.

Doing these deeds of mercy may not inoculate us from being treated harshly by others; the world may not notice or care. Rest you well assured that God notices, Jesus notices. Jesus said, “As you have done for the least of these who are members of my family, you did unto me.” Matthew 25.40