Mercy Always and Everywhere

I was with a group of amazing young women the other night. They are in that time of life where they are pretty recently married and starting their families. As they shared their stories of the antics of their babies and the missteps and small victories of family life with young children, I sat and watched them in awe. They are gorgeous, and they were so comfortable with one another. They teased and chided; supported and encouraged one another. They spoke of their faith, and one discussed how she and her husband had been praying about a change in job. I was basking at being included in their tribe.

Then the subject of the conversation changed, and suddenly, we were discussing television and the Bachelor and other shows which make a game show out of finding a partner and hooking up. “Oh, yes, on _____________________ if they aren’t in bed with someone by nighttime, they are off the show!” This was followed by a round of laughter and discussing the pros and cons of the different formats, each of which involved finding a partner, “hooking up” and generally making sport of finding a spouse and getting married. As the conversation turned again, I sat there and felt deflated and defeated.

Our culture. Ugh. What are we doing to our young people? What is it that makes these beautiful, incredible young woman, who aren’t living by those twisted values think that this is okay entertainment? And why didn’t I say something?

I have been rereading and praying over today’s Scripture for some time. But it was after this, that it made me sit up straight and take a serious accounting.

At the end of His explanation of the parable of the seeds, Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” Wait. What was that? “They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Hold on a minute. Did Jesus really just say that not only evildoers but those who cause others to sin will be cast into the fire for ETERNITY? Yessiree Bob, that is precisely what he said.

I am not only responsible for not doing evil myself, but also for making sure I don’t cause others to sin, and that is going to include talking about sinful, stiff-necked behavior (as Moses called it), both mine and theirs. This just got hard. This just got real.

From the Introduction to “Divine Mercy in My Soul”, the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Koiwalska, “We must draw near to Him who redeemed us by His suffering and death borne for us, and, out of love for Him, draw near to our poor and suffering brothers and sisters and bring them relief through spiritual and corporal works of love and mercy. Jesus expects this from us: I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere.”

What does it mean to show mercy to my neighbors always and everywhere? Of course, it starts with making sure their physical needs are met. But it doesn’t end there. The greatest act of mercy we can do for someone is to help them draw closer to God. In this crazy mixed-up world we live in, it means being able to recognize and oh-so-gently point out when we are not living consistent with what we know and profess about Jesus Christ.

I could give you 100 reasons why I didn’t speak up on that evening. I am also sure that listening to an old, grey-haired Aunt pontificate on the evils of the Bachelor wouldn’t have done much good either. I need to be better at finding loving, charitable ways to fulfill Jesus’ demand for deeds of mercy because helping people I love and care about live a life aligned with Christ in word and deed is the most merciful and loving thing I can do. Is it going to put me out there? Yes. Are some people going to take it badly and not like it? Yes. Do I need to practice so that I can do it with as much kindness and charity as possible? Absolutely. Jesus demands it.

I don’t have any great words of wisdom for you today. I can’t even shine the flashlight backward to help you to see the path because I am not ahead of you. The best that I can give you today is to let you know that you are not alone. Jesus is calling me, and he is calling you to live out our faith, to profess it AND to live it. I am right beside you on this path, and I pray it will lead us to the Kingdom of the Father, both now and forever. Amen.

If you catch Sheryl sitting still, you are most likely to find her nose stuck in a book. It may be studying with her husband, Tom as he goes through Diaconate Formation,  trying to stay one step ahead of her 5th and 6th-grade students at St Rose of Lima Catholic School or figuring out a new knitting or quilting pattern. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.