Cultivating Peace through Mercy

Photo courtesy of Mark Groves

Photo courtesy of Mark Groves

Today on the first day of our Novena of Peace, Pope Francis invites us to “become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

Seeing the Sacred in all things will be the Spark that lights our way.

Seeing with Merciful Eyes Changes Everything

Our world is infected with religious fundamentalists who use religion as a weapon that denigrates, destroys, and condemns with physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual threats and abuse. However Pope Francis is showing us a different way. He is turning his gaze—and ours—toward a God of love and mercy rather than a God of punishing judgment. Pope Francis’ God stands with merciful arms open wide to embrace, accept, and love all.

Francis is wholly committed to mercy. His motto, “miserando atque eligendo,” is literally translated as lowly (or pitiful) and chosen; loosely translated “Chosen with the eyes of mercy.” He believes that both he and we were chosen by a merciful God. An Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy for 2016 announced in March 2015 and begun officially on December 8, 2015 gives weight and action to his commitment.

 “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” Pope Francis from his Misericordiae Vultus, for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

The timing for a year of mercy couldn’t have been better. This decade has been full of horrors for migrants and refugees in crisis. Terrorist attacks worldwide demoralize with their death and destruction. Politicians bellow and posture while refugees, migrants, host countries, and even television viewers, can all feel victimized by economic upheaval and physical terror, by constant threats, and by seemingly unwinnable wars. People teeter on the edge of despondency or become hardened to suffering.

All Is Sacred

I know I can feel overwhelmed when I look outward to the problems that plague our world. Yet when I can recognize the Sacred in ALL beings and in every created thing, my compassionate response become natural.

Recognizing God in all things requires heightened awareness achieved not only by observing the world, but also by searching within. Upon reflection, I recognize what is within my control (my thoughts/actions) and observe many small things I can do (or not do) so that the Divine Spark grows within me. As it grows within me, it also becomes more visible in those who cross my path.

Becoming Islands of Mercy

So let us reflect on the ways we are called in this moment now to become islands of mercy. It may be a prayer, a desire to understand better, a refusal to give into despair. You may use the prayers and reflection questions in the preparation post or you may reflect on the following questions:

  • In what specific ways have I experienced love or mercy in the last twenty-four hours; can I recognize God in that?
  • Have I shown compassion and mercy to a “least one” or a refugee (either an emotional or physical refugee)? What thoughts and actions reveal this?
  • Thinking over my day, did I miss or reject an opportunity to see the Divine Spark in myself or another or offer mercy, forgiveness, or love?

Our prayer today

May we always recognize the Divine Spark in ourselves and others and tend it with love.

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