Monday, August 29, 2016

Mercy as Memory

On the occasion of this past weekend's "Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in the Americas," Pope Francis sometimes sounded as if he had our US presidential campaign in mind - as, when expressing his pleasure that all the countries of America were participating, he said: "Given the many attempts to fragment, divide and set our peoples at odds such events help us to broaden our horizons and to continue our handshake; a great sign that encourages us in hope."

The Pope related his message to Saint Paul's remembrance how of God's mercy had been shown to him in the past (1 Timothy 1:12-16). - an experience Paul "remembers, gives thanks for, and celebrates."

Framed that way, it is our forgetting of God's mercy that so deeply wounds us and our world, "when we forget how the Lord has treated us, when we begin to judge and divide people up." As a result, we then "take on a separatist mindset, that without our realizing it, leads us to fragment our social and communal reality all the more."

To realize that we know about being merciful because we remember God's mercy toward us - "Mercy is learned, because our Father continues to forgive us" - situates the project of this Year of Mercy not in isolated works of mercy (important though those most certainly are) but at the heart of who we have become by God's great grace.

The more active our memory of forgiveness, it seems to me, then, the more the experience transforms us and makes possible the transformation of how we are with and for one another, which has enormous implications for human solidarity, one of the core conceptions of Catholic social teaching that is most obviously in need of emphsais today. 

Changing how we are for and with one another is made possible by our active memory of God's mercy, and it aligns our agenda with that of the merciful Father - in contrast to the tragic, worldly agenda of what Pope Francis so unhesitatingly identifies as "a fragmented culture, a throwaway culture." Here again the way the Holy Father frames the contemporary American dynamics in urgent need of just such transformation sounds so immediate in the context of the moral challenges highlighted by this election. Thus, he identifies "A culture tained by the exclusion that might threaten the interests of a few. A culture that is leaving by the roadside the faces of the elderly, children, ethnic minorities seen as a threat. A culture that little by little promotes the comfort of a few and increases the suffering of many others. A culture that is incapable of accompanying the young in their dreams but sedates them with promises of ethereal happiness and hides the living memory of their elders."


For the full text of the Pope's message, go to:

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