FRANCIS – YEAR OF MERCY •
The Holy Year of Mercy is drawing to a close, and there is a sense that the topic of mercy is only just beginning. In other words, the Year of Mercy was a prelude, an introduction for what many people are calling the re-founding of the Church, faithful to its origins, in a culture of mercy, by Pope Francis and many Christians, who like the prophets and saints, have been waiting a long time. We also place, with holy pride, Fr. Kentenich – who exactly 50 years ago sealed a Covenant of Love with God the Merciful Father – in this line of prophets of the refounding of a “mercy that goes out.”
Recently, Pope Francis described mercy as a journey from misery to my hands, a journey that involves our eyes, heart and hands. In other words, mercy as a process that is organic and has the potential to make us live more organically.
It is this process that enables us to see the misery of a family living under four poles and a piece of plastic, that allows us to see the old man dying on the floor in the lobby of a bank in Germany, that lets us see these young people who never experienced what it is to have a family and who steal cars so that they don’t die of hunger on the streets of Paraguay, that makes us see the refugees on boats in the sea, that sees the divorced couple who remarry as a desire to be part of the church community…but it doesn’t end here, it doesn’t stop with simple recognition. It has to go deeper from what we see and know, to the heart, to feel the pain, to go through the pain, the misery of others passes through my own heart…but it also does not end here, with a feeling, compassion, tears for the poor. It also involves doing, commitment, action – to the hands, as Pope Francis says. In other words, mercy is a process that involves reason, feelings and actions. The whole person. Mercy is the most organic thing that we can experience. It is also through mercy that Francis and Kentenich come together in a deep way.
Gathered in Santa Fe, Argentina for the 14th National Meeting of “Manos Abiertas” [Open Hands] this Christian volunteer organisation received a video message from Pope Francis who, beginning with their name – open hands – explained the organic process of mercy.
Pope Francis’ message on the ocassion of the 14th National Meeting of “Manos Abiertas”
Dear friends of “Manos Abiertas”
You are gathered for this National Meeting on the theme: ‘Mercy, a voyage of the heart to the hands’. Let us take two passages from the Gospel. When the Good Samaritan encounters that man on the road, the Gospel tells us that he felt compassion in his heart, and then got off his horse, touched him, and healed him; the compassion of the heart lead him to work with his hands. Another scene of the Gospel tells us about Jesus at the gate of the city of Nain, watching the funeral procession of the young son of the widow, and the mother behind. ‘He had compassion for her and said to her: “Do not weep”’, and his hands began to act. After he touched the bier and said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’. A journey of the heart to the hand’. This is how Jesus is; this is what the Gospel teaches us: to act, but from the heart”.
The heart, be it that of the Good Samaritan or that of Jesus, was touched by misery: the misery it saw there, the misery of the widow mother who Jesus say, the misery of sorry, the misery of the beaten man the Samaritan saw. The heart joins with the misery of the other, and this is mercy. When the misery of the other enters into my heart I feel mercy, which is not the same as feeling pity, pity is another sentiment. I can feel pity before an injured animal or a situation, but mercy is another sentiment: it is when the mercy of another, or a situation of suffering or misery, is placed in the heart and I let this situation touch my heart. I would say: it is the outbound journey, the voyage of misery to the heart. And this is the path: there is no mercy if it does not come from the heart, a heart wounded by the suffering of another, by a painful situation of another, a heart that lets itself be wounded
It is different to have good sentiments. This is not mercy, they are good sentiments. It is different to perform acts of philanthropy with the hands, this is not mercy. It is good, it is good, it is good, it is not bad to perform philanthropy, but it is not mercy, it is something else. Mercy is that outbound trip of misery to my heart, borne by my heart, that moves my heart and that, at times, moves it to the point that the heart becomes like a compass at the North Pole, that is unable to stop, for what it feels.
Some of you might ask me, ‘Father, how does one feel mercy and not pity?’ Well, first we need to ask for the grace to have mercy. It is a grace and you must ask the Lord for it. The only road, though, to have mercy is through one’s own sin recognised by ourselves, and forgiven by the Lord; through sin acknowledged and forgiven. We can be merciful only if we feel we have truly received the mercy of the Lord, as otherwise one cannot be truly merciful. If you feel that your sin has been taken on, forgiven, and forgotten by God, you have received mercy, and by having thus received mercy, you can be merciful. If mercy does not come from your heart in this way, it is not mercy.
And here begins the return journey. If the outbound journey is letting my heart be wounded by the suffering of others, the trip through my heart is recognising my sin, my suffering, my lowliness and feeling I have been forgiven and have received the Lord’s mercy, then the return journey begins, from the heart to the hands. In this way the journey goes from my misery that has received mercy, to the suffering of the other; from my misery loved by God, to love for the misery of another; from my misery loved in my heart to the expression of my hands. And this is mercy. Mercy is a journey from the heart to the hands. ‘What do I do? Open my hands or my heart?’ Both. Let misery wound your heart, that of others and your own. Let yourself receive mercy and begin your return journey, and with your hands give mercy to others, spreading mercy and love”.
God bless you and may your meeting be fruitful for all the community of ‘Manos Abiertas’. And please, do not forget to pray for me.
(English translation: www.vatican.va)
Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa