By Sister Agnes Fischer
(January 2016) -- Through the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has challenged each of us to consider how our own concrete actions might help make God’s mercy more evident in our world today.
Those looking to act with mercy during the jubilee year could look to the corporal works of mercy — such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty and sheltering the homeless — acts named by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. For those hoping to use the Year of Mercy as a starting point for a more merciful life, Francis gives us some concrete suggestions for getting started:
Find ways to build community.
Sometimes building community is as small as bringing snacks to a club meeting or making sure newcomers to a group are introduced to others. Sometimes it means working on a larger scale to ensure our nation welcomes those in need. We must ask ourselves: Are we doing all we can to build inclusive churches, schools, societies? How can we work to empower and lift up marginalized voices? How do we mercifully extend invitations to others? Invitations to be a part of a community convey a powerful message: You are not alone.
See the person in front of you.
Pope Francis said, “In the face of Christ we see the mercy and love of God.” What do I do when I see a person in need on the street? How should I respond when facts and figures become faces? Whether one responds by offering money, a sandwich, a conversation or a prayer, what is clear is that these encounters challenge us to make sure that our own exhaustion or apathy does not blind us from seeing God in those we meet each day.
Find mercy already present in your life.
Often, mercy is already part of our day, if only we would recognize it. The work to feed a child or care for an aging parent or even bring a co-worker a cup of coffee is part of a life of mercy.
Be willing to be changed.
Mercy is disruptive. It might make us uncomfortable. It might urge us to take responsibility. When we take mercy to heart, we are no longer able to say, “Someone should fix this.” We must ask instead, “What can I do? How can I be a catalyst for change?”
To live out mercy, we sort out what we believe in, why we believe it and then, crucially, what action is required to demonstrate these beliefs. Mercy can call us to study the history that has shaped our society’s views on race, the sociology behind how we view gender or the economics that perpetuate or alleviate poverty. And then we are called to do something. When we present our imperfect, authentic selves, we offer a gift that no one else can offer. “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just,” Pope Francis has said. And that’s just a little. We can all do a little.
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