Today is a double celebration: the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the beginning of the Year of Mercy. As the Holy Door swung open in St. Peter’s Basilica, so too may our hearts open wide to the mercy that we need to be whole and loving people. May Mary, our Mother and model, guide us through this year with grace.
Today’s readings show God’s mercy. Adam and Eve skirt the responsibility of disobeying God and he punishes them but could have done worse. Gabriel appears to Mary and after their exchange her yes is ready–Let it be done to me….Will we also respond with a yes to bearing Christ in this Jubilee year? Can we be his feet, his hands, his voice?
I saw a brilliantly written play over the weekend that was disturbing to me as a peace activist and pacifist because ultimately the play was about revenge and not reconciliation. The characters showed no mercy in their attempt to expose the truth about an international war criminal who had committed atrocities too unspeakable to fill the audiences mind. Instead the made-up language left to our imaginations exactly what this man had done. The dark play ended with hope of redemption and forgiveness.
I have traveled to many corners of the world where these crimes are reality. I have heard the stories first hand; I have seen the destruction in the survivors; I have helped to bring healing and reconciliation wherever possible. Stories from Guatemala, Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, Kenya, and South Africa could haunt me. I prefer to hold on to the hope and not the horrors that I have experienced in these war-torn countries. After a difficult visit to an internally displaced persons camp in Eastern Congo, I could feel my spirit crushed by all that I had seen and heard. When I was asked for a word of encouragement, I rose, but I could not find words immediately. Instead tears fell from my eyes. Everything I could say would sound trite and meaningless. Then I knew what I had to say: I promise to tell your stories of rape, hunger, murder–and of resilience, peace, and hope. Our world does not want to hear what goes on in any detail. We do not want to watch plays like the one that I saw. The trouble is, we cannot do acts of mercy until we understand what people have been through.
Mary is a beautiful model of mercy for us because she knows how a pierced heart feels. She has lived trauma, not once, but several times throughout her life. She has forgiven the unforgivable. When she said let it be done, she may not have completely comprehended what doors that would open but she never strayed from that path. She suffered along with her Son and those he served. She intercedes for us in all our longings too.
Today, at long last, to end a shameful history in Canada, an announcement came that a national inquiry into murdered and missing women will take place. Most of these women are Aboriginal and have met violent ends. My heart goes out to the families of these spirits who wander, crying out for justice and an end to the inequities of gender and race. The year of mercy starts well in my country.
What will you do during this year? How will you serve God? How will you be the hands, feet, eyes, and voice of Christ? Matthew 25 gives a list of acts of mercy. Choose one and open your heart. Do not shy away because of the challenges. Start in your family if that makes the most sense. Make a difference this year. Sow mercy. Do justice.
What stops you from being merciful?
When have you received mercy?
Mother of Mercy,
thank you for your model
of grace and forgiveness.
Thank you for your Son
whose abundant mercy flows
freely to us, even when we do not expect it.
May we throw open wide the doors
of our hearts and let mercy pour out
onto the streets of this world to heal
the wounded and ourselves at the same time.
Let it be done!