Remember that wonderful Psalm about mercy and loving kindness and compassion? (Psalm 135 in the older Catholic numbering and Psalm 136 in the newer common numbering) People who know it love its refrain: "... for His mercy endures forever." Other translations have "for His steadfast love endures forever," or "for His loving kindness endures forever." But one of the most common translations is 'mercy.' Both the Douay-Reims and the King James Bible use 'mercy.'
But however this tender, compassionate, loving word is translated into English, there's another side to it that is often neglected. You know that if you stand for anything, you have to oppose something, right? If you love justice, you have to hate injustice. The Bible is very clear on this 'other side' to love, compassion, kindness, and, yes, mercy. Though it's easy to lose sight of this in today's pervasive and oft-too-giddy talk of 'mercy.'
I'm about half-way through Holy Scripture once again in one of my periodic read-throughs, which I cannot recommend highly enough. The blessings and riches of the Bible are beyond telling. So I'm in the Psalms, and I've just been reading the Psalm in question. And half-way through last night, I noticed the following which made me sit up and take notice in a way I hadn't before -- probably precisely because of all the recent talk of 'mercy.' Here are the verses in question from the Msgr. Ronald Knox translation of the Bible [Note: the spelling of 'Pharao' is Knox's]:
Eternal his mercy, who smote the Egyptians by smiting their first-born ...Think about it. Why are these smitings and drownings and slayings 'merciful'? It's not as obvious as you'd think. Yes, He's merciful to those whom He saved from these oppressors. But start down that rabbit hole and you'll find much more!
Eternal the mercy that drowned in the Red Sea Pharao and Pharao's men ...
Eternal the mercy that smote great kings ...
Eternal the mercy that slew the kings in their pride, Sehon king of the Amorrhites,
His mercy is eternal,
And Og the king of Basan,
His mercy is eternal.