For whatever reason, as a child, I remember adults often asking each other at social gatherings a question that I thought was strange. Shortly after arrival, coats now off and initial greetings expressed someone could be heard asking, “How did you get here?
Friday, December 25, 2015
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
The Catholic Church has begun a universal celebration of an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is more than an a marketing theme or a catchy slogan put forth by the church. The Jubilee is a year which celebrates the remission of sins and the alleviation of suffering that comes from sin. It is a time of reconciliation and of conversion through sacramental penance. It is a year dedicated to solidarity, hope, justice and serving God in the spirit of joy and peace with everyone. Above all, the Jubilee Year is a year of Christ, the giver of life and of grace to humanity. It is called a “Holy Year” because it is celebrated with sacred rites and its mission is the holiness of human life. A Jubilee year is referred to as "Ordinary," if it falls after a set period of years (generally 50 or 25 years); and extraordinary if it is declared as a celebration of an event of outstanding importance. Pope Francis has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to the theme of mercy, "as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective." Misericordiae Vultus 3 I very much agree with the Holy Father, we are in a time when mercy is most needed. The world needs Good News and the act of mercy is authentic preaching of that Good News.
I found it sadly ironic, however, that on the day Pope Francis marked the beginning of this jubilee year by the opening the Holy Doors of St. Peter's Basilica, the most merciless of statements was made by a front running candidate for the presidency of the United States, calling for the barring of all Muslims from entering the United States (immigrants and visitors alike.) This declaration follows a more recent one, which sought a mandatory registry of all Muslims living in the United States. This candidate calls himself a Christian, but no man or woman of any faith can hold these positions.
Long before Pope Francis, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote an encyclical on mercy. One significant point he made was that the human thirst for dominance has left no room for mercy.
The present-day mentality...seems opposed to a God of mercy...The word and the concept of "mercy" seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it. This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy. Dives in Misericordia 2:3
Saint John Paul goes on to say that this desire for domination, as opposed to mercy, leads to a false sense of justice.
Often programs which start from the idea of justice...in practice suffer from distortions. Although they continue to appeal to the idea of justice...other negative forces have gained the upper hand over justice, such as spite, hatred and even cruelty...The desire to annihilate the enemy, limit his freedom, or even force him into total dependence, becomes the fundamental motive for action; and this contrasts with the essence of justice, which by its nature tends to establish equality and harmony between the parties in conflict. Dives in Misericordia 12:3Exclusion from society because of one's religious identification can not be accept as a just response to violence and terror. Such a perspective is not only unjust to the persons to which this is applied, but it also accelerates intolerance, which will ultimately lead to the justification for persecution of any and all faiths. One only needs to remember the famous poem First They Came by Rev. Martin Niemoller to be awakened to the dangers of a ideological bigotry. If we can not show mercy, we can not expect that it will be shown to us.
Mercy is relational, not ideological. The deep wounds of our world are the result of merciless acts of those who do not know God. May this year of mercy bear fruit for those who share our faith and our culture as well as in the lives of those we fear.