by Lesle Knop
Recently, a friend posted on social media a little gripe: When we suffer loss, she said, it isn’t very helpful to be told to “be strong.”
I “liked” her post because I agreed that, at times, we need kindness, compassion and understanding — not platitudes, as well-intended as these words might be.
People have rallied troops (and each other) to withstand hardships with these words, but we can’t “stay calm and carry on” without help. Truthfully, I believe I need my Redeemer to help me because I can’t do anything by myself.
I also think God wants us to demonstrate for others what Christ’s love looks like by our actions.
The Pharisees were a pretty self-righteous group. In fact, mercy was not very popular in the Holy Land when Jesus first formed disciples. The Romans despised pity. Perhaps that’s why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, offered radical new ideas to help us live joyfully. Human happiness is not always derived by “being strong” — sometimes the blessing is received by simply giving and accepting mercy and love.
Saint James wrote: “If a brother or a sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:15-17).
What if we ignored our friend’s spiritual suffering, also? Sympathy and empathy are acts of tender mercy. Sadly, though, we don’t see much mercy in our world, but we do see a lot of bigotry, prejudice and intolerance.
The Holy Father arrives in the United States this month for the much-anticipated World Meeting of Families. I will be watching, listening and praying that the whole world — especially Americans whose culture is often marked by materialism, relativism, hedonism, individualism and consumerism — will be encouraged and enlightened by Pope Francis’ teaching and convictions.
I will look forward, also, to the opening of the Holy Door in Rome in December to begin the Year of Mercy. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, in his 10-year mutually shared vision, calls us to transform our world through acts of corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
We can’t get inside another’s mind and heart unless we can see and feel things as he does. That’s where a merciful steward should begin. If we are aware of our sins, we can begin to forgive. If we are aware of God’s mercy, we can give mercy to others. An ungrateful, self-centered heart can’t begin to truly know the suffering of others. As Christian disciples, we strive for this understanding.