So I found a member of a religious order called the Sisters of Mercy. Their founder was Catherine McAuley, an Irish woman who lived during the mid 19th century.
They arrived in NZ quite early and are principally known as a teaching order.
What I discovered through my email discussions with Sis. Elizabeth was the ancient church tradition of the 7 works of mercy:
There were 2 wise things Sis Elizabeth highlighted for me. The first is that in the bible mercy is primarily an action, rather than simply a feeling. "It's a verb" she said.
Her second piece of wisdom arose after I pushed back, wondering whether mercy had become understood as somewhat paternalistic. Here's what she wrote: Yes, the one dispensing mercy can seem to be 'lady bountiful'. However, I think the first step is always the receiving of mercy. We cannot give what we do not have. And everything is gift anyway. Growth in awareness of this reality is a lifetime journey!
I'd put it like this: you can't do 'in' or 'out' without also doing 'up'. This is cryptic discipleship language for the 3 dimensions of life Jesus calls us into. While we might love our community (in), or love the people we feel God calling us to be and proclaim good news to (out), both are blighted without a deep love for God (up). When we try to be merciful without knowing ourselves as objects of divine mercy, we lose the Jesus-touch. The gospel writers are alive to this in Jesus' life, often pointing out how a time of ministry was preceded by a night of prayer.
Interestingly, the 7 tradition works of mercy, were complemented with the 7 spiritual works of mercy. I think the instinct is right. It's the balance of up, in and out which helps his followers smell like Jesus. And this is never more important when we embark on works of mercy in his name.