There is a story of a desperate mother who left her new-born in the manger scene of a church just before Christmas. This is a sad and shocking story. But it is also one that is life-giving and filled with faith and hope. The priest remarked that this mom saw the church as a safe home in a time of need. To her, the stable that was Jesus’ home could be a home for her child. The parishioners stepped forward with emergency help and some families offered to foster or adopt the child if that became possible. What a wonderful expression of mercy lived.
We are now about a month and a half into our Church’s Year of Mercy. It will continue to be a focus for our Church until next November. What do we mean by “Mercy”? How do we live it? Jesuit, Fr. James Keenan has a wonderful description of what it is and involves. “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.”
We see this mercy best when we can recognize it in real life experiences.
Mercy is the willingness to visit and spend time with a grieving friend. It is the readiness to step in when a family member, a neighbour, a community member or perhaps especially a stranger encounters challenges in their life. It is the parent who gives up time and energy for a hurting or fearful child.
A community shows mercy when it gathers food for the foodbank, when it reaches out to the poor and the disadvantaged, when as a community they throw in their for Transition House or Chrysalis House . It is dedicated persons working for Development and Peace and a community’s efforts to cross international boundaries to care for others.
In our current year, mercy is expressed in the willingness and efforts of communities to reach out in welcome and support for Syrian families arriving in Canada. The warmth of our welcome and the real-life efforts to assist them in a new country and culture is a true expression of mercy. It is living the Year of Mercy.
There is no one way to live this Year. To do so takes courage and it takes creativity. Courage is necessary because to be merciful to another in real life will make demands upon us. It will also place in situations and circumstances that can be uncomfortable as well as new to us. Creativity is necessary because to be merciful often means “thinking outside the box.” We may be forced by the situations to think differently and to search for new ways to solve problems and challenges.
When Pope Francis called for this Year of Mercy, our whole Church community was given a challenge. At this point early in our Year – How are we responding to the call that we a People of God, a merciful God for all?