Febbraio 2016

To Be an Oasis of Mercy

Every act of caring, compassion, or mercy can inspire others to do likewise

Sharon Holland, IHM — LCWR Past President

In this Year of Mercy, 2016, can I be an oasis of mercy? In a publicly televised address, President Obama said that whenever he thinks of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it makes him mad. But he did not look like an angry man; he looked like a father who wept at the thought of murdered children. He appeared a determined man, using all of the means at his disposal to limit access to guns by those not able to use them responsibly.

Any plan of action born of compassionate concern rather than angry retaliation surely is a sign of mercy. But mercy does not really begin with our actions. The Jubilee Year, Pope Francis states, “will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy…. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved.” Loved by God, we are made capable of mercy.

Imbedded in the news reports of floods, fires, tornados, and earthquakes, war, terrorist attacks and domestic violence, there are scenes of mercy. The horror visited upon some, awakens the depths of human and divine mercy in others. They pluck survivors from trees and house tops; they claw through rubble seeking sounds and signs of life; they place themselves between violent threats and would-be victims. Refugees arriving in overloaded boats and walking endless miles across Europe or Central America, carry children and little else. They often face frustrating obstacles at borders, but they also encounter merciful humanity. Volunteers help them to shore, through border controls, and offer human kindness along with shelter, food, and clothing.

These thoughts remind me of Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Peace: “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” Indifference, he says has become globalized. It is indifference to God, to neighbor, and to the environment. Indifference cannot give rise to acts of mercy.

Many of us remember, years ago, when people across the country were shocked at the report of a woman being attacked on the streets of New York while dozens looked on from apartment windows high above. There seemed to be no response. The memory is a frightening reminder of how we can become paralyzed into a sense of helplessness or indifference.

In contrast, a recent newspaper story told of how a group of students responded to overt cruelty. A fast-food worker’s senseless mistreatment of a homeless person was seen widely on video. The students at the local Christian academy searched for a meaningful response. In the end, with the help of teachers and parents, they prepared and served a hot meal for some 30 homeless persons. They collected funds to help local shelters.

Every act of caring, compassion, or mercy can inspire others to do likewise. At the opening of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis provided us the challenge: “… wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”


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