by Father Mark Goldasich
I hope that Pope Francis isn’t too disappointed with us.
His wonderful proclamation of the jubilee Year of Mercy sure seems to have fallen on deaf ears, at least here in the United States. Rather than becoming more compassionate and understanding of one another, we seem to have gone in the opposite direction. Instead of building bridges of hope and encouragement, many have chosen to erect walls of fear, anger and mistrust. In our dealings with one another, both in person and online — particularly during this election period — we’ve become nastier rather than kinder.
But how can we deal with hurtful situations in our lives? Isn’t responding by “dishing it back” or seeking revenge the only real way to survive? Well, if we won’t listen to Pope Francis, maybe we can learn a lesson from Mandisa Hundley.
Mandisa was a gospel singer and one of 10 finalists on “American Idol.” When she came to sing before the judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson — she was greeted with a nasty comment from Simon. Eyeing Mandisa, who was heavyset, Simon asked, “Do we have a bigger stage this year?”
Upon entering the room later to find out whether she’d made it to the next round of competition, Mandisa looked right at Simon and said, “Simon, a lot of people want me to say a lot of things to you. But this is what I want to say. Yes, you hurt me, and I cried, and it was painful. But I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you, and that you don’t need someone to apologize to forgive somebody.
“And I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you. I wanted you to know that.”
Simon apologized and hugged the singer, and Mandisa discovered she had advanced to the next round. (Adapted from a story found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
Pope Francis would be proud of Mandisa. She not only advanced to the next round in the show, but her example advanced the cause of mercy in the world.
Although the Year of Mercy officially ends on Nov. 20, we’ve got to keep — or start! — living lives of mercy beyond that date, especially in the post-election period and the upcoming holiday season. As Catholics, we should lead the charge by witnessing to what mercy looks like.
On her blog, Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND, suggests some small, easy ways to lead a more merciful life. Here’s what she recommends:
- Forgive yourself. So many times, we’re absolutely brutal when it comes to our self-image. We’re never good enough. We find it hard to believe that God forgives us — let alone, loves us. But the prophet Isaiah says that God himself “delights in us” (62:4). If that’s the case, shouldn’t we really give ourselves a break?
- Give up irritating habits. If cracking your knuckles drives your spouse crazy, don’t do it! If hogging the remote makes your family apoplectic, give it up!
- Refrain from saying, “I told you so!” If someone has messed up, that failure is bad enough. Don’t make things worse by rubbing it in.
- Help others, however you can and whenever you can. No act of kindness is too small.
- Forgive past hurts. Move on with your life.
I’d add a couple of other suggestions for extending mercy.
- If given a choice of being right or being kind, choose the latter. Many silly arguments are avoided this way.
- Finally, give others the benefit of the doubt. Practice looking for the best, rather than the worst, in people.
If you’ve done less than a stellar job with this Year of Mercy, don’t despair. Pope Francis understands.
“The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way,” he said. “The important thing is always to get back up.”
So, let’s get up and keep going . . . for mercy’s sake.