March 22, 2019

Editorial

Mercy, compassion and understanding must be central to our faith journey

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43-44).

Our world is sorely lacking in mercy today.

Think about it: Some see people different than themselves, and they quickly judge them.

They speak a different language, and they are foreigners.

They dress differently, and they are weird or out of step with society.

They practice a different faith that we know little or nothing about, and they are our enemies.

We need only turn to the March 15 shooting tragedies in two mosques in New Zealand that left at least 50 dead and dozens wounded to witness how a lack of mercy, compassion and understanding led to another horrific tragedy.

And again, we wonder how a person can commit such heinous crimes in places of worship, which should be sacred no matter what faith traditions are being practiced there. Hatred and violence have no place in these sanctuaries.

“In these days, in addition to the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity, there have been the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” Pope Francis said on March 17 during his Sunday Angelus address. “I am close to our Muslim brothers and sisters and their entire community. I renew my invitation to unite with them in prayer and gestures of peace to counter hatred and violence.”

As people who are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we must do our part to address the ongoing hatred and violence, and get to the root cause of these problems.

Some will say a lack of understanding is at the heart of the New Zealand tragedy. Others will bring gun control into the debate. Still others will mention social media, its various outlets and its effects—including some bad and evil offerings—on so many people. But no matter where we think the problems come from, we must do our part to plant seeds of mercy, compassion and understanding into the discussion.

During his morning Mass on March 18 in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Chapel at the Vatican, the Holy Father reminded listeners that the Lenten season is a time for Christians to reflect on and practice the mercy of God toward others, and not waste time sitting in judgment of others.

Christ’s command to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36) is a reminder for Christians that God always has shown them mercy even when they were at their worst, the pope said, according to a story posted on Catholic News Service.

“How many people say, ‘I have done such terrible things. I have earned my place in hell, I can’t turn back.’ But do they think about the mercy of God?” he asked.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading, the pope said Jesus calls on his disciples “to imitate God” by showing mercy, being forgiving and not judging others.

Sadly, mercy and forgiveness were evidently nowhere to be found in the individual who attacked the mosques in New Zealand.

Providentially, the Gospel reading for morning Masses on March 16—the day after the attacks—focused on love of enemies (Mt 5:43-48).

Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43-44).

We must meet the urge to persecute or hurt those different than us with love. And we must continually offer prayers for those called our enemies. Through our actions, may we plant seeds of faith that lead to mercy, compassion and understanding.

Some in the world have little or no interest in reaching out to those who are different.

But during the Lenten season and beyond, our faith reminds us that indifference is not an option, and just as important, we are all God’s people.

—Mike Krokos

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