In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wants the faithful to recognize God’s mercy toward each individual soul, and then in turn to show increased mercy toward one another. In his bull proclaiming the Jubilee, our Holy Father affirms “we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.” Mercy can, however, seem rather abstract to us; the imagination may need some prodding.
Few books provide a better depiction of mercy than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, particularly through the character of Frodo Baggins. Frodo’s entire mission hangs upon one tremendous act of mercy (and many smaller ones) toward Gollum.
At the beginning of Frodo’s adventures, Gandalf tells him about the lineage of his magic ring, as well as about the part Gollum played in entangling Bilbo and himself in the deadly War of the Ring. Frodo cannot bear the thought that Gollum may once have been very like the Hobbits themselves. “‘I can’t believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however distantly,’ said Frodo with some heat. ‘What an abominable notion!’” A moment later, Frodo bursts out with: “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!” Gandalf responds firmly:
“Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy; not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.” “I am sorry,” said Frodo. “But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.” “You have not seen him,” Gandalf broke in. “No, and I don’t want to,” said Frodo.
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