While studying in the 12th grade, I had a Biology professor named Mercy Thomas. Though she was named Mercy, she wasn’t exactly the best ambassador for it. I remember pleading to her endlessly to forgive me for all the wrongs that I did (which were definitely quite a lot) but I still ended up getting punished every single time.
My professor was a very devout Catholic woman. I saw her go for mass every single morning to the college chapel. She wore a huge rosary around her neck and at least once a day during the class, she mentioned what Jesus was telling her during her prayer time. None of us were too serious about our studies back then, much less about what Jesus was talking to our professor. The only reason we attended class was to avoid our names being flashed on the Black List. If your name was on that list, this devout Catholic woman automatically turned into the scariest human alive and the stares she gave us would make us shiver without her even saying a single word. So much for being called Mercy.
But now when I reflect on her personality, I see that there are so many life lessons I can learn from her. She truly knew how to balance justice and mercy. We were all punished and had to bear the consequences of our actions, which was her being just. Our God is a just God; therefore we too will have to bear the consequences of our actions. Like God, our professor went further to be merciful. She never held a grudge, but patiently explained the lesson to us all over again. She spent time after college helping us in our studies and practicals. Back then, it was a huge pain to spend so much time around her, but now, looking back at it, if that had never happened, I don’t think any of us would have scored decently in our exams.
We are all called to fight for justice and be just in our actions, but we have a higher calling of transcending this justice to mercy. An Australian theologian said that the mission of the Church is to make present the mercy of God in today’s world. Pope Francis, by announcing this year to be ‘THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBLIEE YEAR OF MERCY’ is challenging us to live out this mission and be living witnesses to this mercy.
So how do we go about fulfilling this mission entrusted to us?
- Value People / Take people seriously
My professor valued every student and their capabilities. She never passed a judgement or criticized anyone, but worked with them to better them. We too need to learn to value people and stop taking them for granted. We see so many of us, myself included, on the phone while we are out with people. The virtual world, though fake at times, seems to be more important than maintaining real relationships. Have you been in a situation where you are waiting for the other to stop talking because you want to make a point? This year calls us to value people for who they are. Go out of your way to meet people, spend time with them, listen to them, and talk to them. Mother Teresa said that the greatest problem in the world is not poverty, it is loneliness. Mercy is always directed towards another, so it’s time we take others seriously.
- Be one with them in their suffering
St. Thomas Aquinas says that mercy is to empathize with the other in their misery, to literally walk with the other in their suffering. In order to be merciful, we need to be involved; we cannot be merciful by standing on the outside and saying “Oh so sad“. Mercy is a verb, it signifies action. We are called to be merciful in and through our actions. My professor sacrificed her free time as well asher time at home and waited back to give us notes and lessons. She acted on her call to mercy. We too feel sorry for so many people suffering and say a prayer for them, which is excellent, but why stop there if we can get out of our comfort zones and lend them a helping hand?
- Do the basics right
We don’t have to be upset that we cannot change the whole world and so sit at home and cry about it. Rather, we can take small steps within our capacity and try to make a difference. The Church has given us some acts of mercy and in our own way we can try and work towards them
Corporal works of Mercy
- Visit the sick
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Shelter the homeless
- Clothe the naked
- Visit the imprisoned
- Bury the dead
Spiritual works of Mercy
- Counsel the doubtful
- Instruct the ignorant
- Admonish the sinner
- Forgive all offences
- Comfort the sorrowful
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Pray for the living and the dead
It is important that we first experience mercy ourselves and what better way to experience this than through the sacrament of reconciliation. Through this sacrament the mercy of God becomes a reality in our lives. St. Faustina says that there is no sin so big that the mercy of God cannot forgive . We need to experience this saving mercy ourselves. Then only will we realize how much more we need to share this with others. So this year let’s make it a point to frequent the sacrament more regularly and sincerely.
Papa Francis also invites us to take a pilgrimage this year based on our individual capacity. This pilgrimage can be to a holy shrine or just the neighboring parish. But the idea is to remind ourselves that mercy is something we need to work towards. It is something that is achieved with dedication and perseverance and requires a whole lot of sacrifice.
I think these five points will help each one of us to have a fruitful and blessed year of mercy. May the joy of the Lord never leave us and may we share this joy by being more merciful. After all, none of us are worthy, yet we are chosen by the Lord.