Pope Francis, who only recently marked his 1,000th day as leader of the Catholic Church, has already had a profound affect on people around the world. His humility, his compassion and his mercy for all humanity has drawn respect and affection from men, women and children of all faiths.
Last month the Pontiff declared a Holy Year of Mercy to last from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016. Calling for “mercy, not judgement,” the pope did so with the express goal of changing the way the Church is perceived by the faithful, lapsed believers and the rest of the world.
I started thinking about ‘mercy’ and wondering if it is one of those words we hear often, hope for always and give rarely. Merriam-Webster defines mercy as “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” or “the kindness or help given to people who are in a bad or desperate situation.”
When we consider what kind of people we might agree fit one or more of these definitions, some obvious ones come to mind – those who have committed crimes, or who are homeless, hungry or addicted, people who are sick, frightened or alone. If we expand our thoughts to the bigger, global picture, what about people who are persecuted in their homelands, who are the innocent victims of war, or who are feared and despised for their faith, their nationality or the color of their skin.
It seems to me that mercy, when given freely takes on great value, not only to the recipient, but also to the giver. As I wrapped my mind around that thought, a familiar quotation came to mind. On remembering the source of the quote, I had a true ‘ah ha’ moment. You see, the words were spoken by St. Francis, whose name Pope Francis chose and whose legacy he is carrying on. In this Holy Year of Mercy, if we could all take the pope’s call for compassion and forgiveness to heart, it might spread like spiritual wildfire around this broken, desperate world spreading love and mercy. St. Francis said it best.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love, Where there is injury let me sow pardon, Where there is doubt let me sow faith, Where there is despair let me give hope, Where there is darkness let me give light, Where there is sadness let me give joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort, Not try to be understood but to understand, Not try to be loved but to love. Because it is in giving that we receive, It is in forgiving that we are forgiven, And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi