First, my apologies if anyone has been waiting for a new blog post. My health improved, so I took the kids on a trip for ten days to give my husband a quiet and less stressful home (and time to finish taxes). Well, we came back with strep and exposure to chicken pox. So, two weeks of kids taking turns with strep and ear infections was closely followed by two weeks of all seven kids with severe chicken pox! The good Lord answered my prayers that they all got them at once, but it was a rough two weeks for the lot of us. My kids were amazingly brave troopers through it all and I wonder just how many souls were saved through their heroic suffering without complaint. This week was less eventful, but still involved bed rest for Allison and I as we both recovered from chest colds. Will this school year ever end? In God’s time is the only answer I have for that.
Today, I wanted to share some thoughts on mercy. Mercy is the word that keeps coming to my mind. Pope Francis declared this to be the Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015 and ending on the feast of Christ the King in 2016. Maybe the news of this declaration has something to do with mercy being my latest buzzword. My initial reaction was that a “Holy Year of Mercy” seemed a wimpy declaration. I thought, what does that mean? Images of Jon Stamos in Full House came to mind. “Have mercy,” he exclaimed each episode in reaction to a beautiful woman or car. But, then I started to really think about what mercy is, the Divine Mercy, the most merciful Lord and savior. And as I looked around my world, I found a desparate lack of mercy. I smiled to myself as I was reminded once again how foolish I am and how great and wise is the Holy Spirit to inspire a Year of Mercy. We can certainly use it!
Don’t believe me? Well, just turn on the news; listen to a talk show; or read comments on any on-line forum, article or social media. There’s a deplorable lack of mercy. Pay attention to your inner voice as you react to any news you hear. Is it like mine with an automatic critical or negative thought? Are you quick to judge, like me? The fact is that we never have all the facts. So, when reacting to the “big story” in the news we are participating in sinful gossip. Commenting on-line is a dangerous tight-rope walk not easily balanced with facts and charitable discussion, but easily igniting anger and bitterness. It makes my heart so heavy. First, to know I am guilty of such criticism and lack of charity—even if I just think it for a brief moment. But, then to see it play out in our world brings a heaviness and sorrow that I can not explain in words. How quickly lives are destroyed and the pain and suffering ripple out!
My duty is to tend to my own soul and those souls of the children still under my care. It is a full-time job and not a fun or glamorous one to be sure. My soul is filthy and dusty and grimy. So, it is much more appealing to me to work on other people’s souls, until I see that it really doesn’t get me (or them) any closer to God. But, extending love and mercy? That draws us to unity with God and one another. Mercy is not the condoning of a sinful act, but the openness to growth and change when one repents of that action. It is the taking in account of our fallen human nature and loving one another despite it. In Fr. Lang’s Dictionary of the Liturgy, he describes God’s mercy as the “willingness of God to draw near to human beings in a loving and saving encounter. . . Those who come to know God and experience Him in this way can live only in a state of being continually converted to Him.” So, basically, if we try to work on our own souls to live out God’s will; then we have no need to worry about the criticism of others and can disregard it as such. (This is not to say that it will be painless or free of suffering. One only needs to look to Jesus on the cross to understand that even this perfect and sinless human was a victim of mob mentality). In living out the Will of God we cannot help but recognize our own faults and weaknesses and understand that we are NOTHING without God. Then, we can more easily understand the weakness and failures of others and extend mercy towards them; mainly in the form of prayer and fasting. Likewise, it will strengthen us to avoid negative thoughts and actions. As others feel this mercy, they will naturally turn towards God and begin to improve their soul and lives accordingly. The ripple of love and mercy will be a conduit of evangelization throughout the world. I can’t think of a time where our world has needed it more than the present moment.