Editorial – Let mercy transform us

Marnie McAllister
Marnie McAllister

Pope Francis opened the Year of Mercy on Tuesday, Dec. 8. From now through Nov. 20 of next year, our church and faith lives will be trained on mercy.
The Holy Father has asked us to do two things:

  • To experience God’s mercy in our own lives.
  • To share God’s mercy with others.

There’s nothing we need now more than mercy.

Fourteen more people are dead in a terrorist attack allegedly carried out by Muslim extremists in San Bernardino, Calif. Among the dead, Catholic News Service reported, is an Iranian Catholic mother who fled Iran decades ago to escape religious extremists.

Closer to home, local news media are reporting that the 2015 murder rate in Louisville has reached a more than three-decade high. And the year’s not over.
Pundits and politicians have reacted with fear-mongering and calls for outright religious discrimination.

Six parishes in West Louisville have taken a more level-headed and faith-filled approach. In anticipation of the Year of Mercy, they organized a prayer service at Christ the King Church, located at 44th Street and West Broadway, Dec. 2 to lament the violence. It was a solemn and a poignant service.

Those in attendance included families who have lost loved-ones to violence. One wonders how they can muster hope when emotions such as vengeance and fear are so much easier to feel.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad also attended and spoke at the end of the service. He asked his listeners to do something almost radical these days. In fact, he sounded a bit like Pope Francis, whether he knew it or not.

He asked the congregation to trust people, to treat people with compassion and to be the Good Samaritan for someone in need.

Louisville and the world need more reactions like the chief’s and fewer of those we’ve seen on the major news networks lately, where hate-filled rhetoric has ruled the debate.

The devil doesn’t often come up in the press, but Pope Francis placed blame on divisive reactions to violence squarely in Satan’s court during his Nov. 25 to 30 trip to Africa.

Catholic News Service, which covered his trip, reported on a homily the pope gave in the Central African Republic (CAR) Nov. 30. During a liturgy at a sports stadium, the Holy Father said sin and division are “ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.”

“How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war,” he said, according to Catholic News Service. It’s easy “to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable.”

He went on to urge the people of the Central African Republic to hold fast to their faith and to share it by working for peace and reconciliation.

Pope Francis wasn’t paying lip service to peace and reconciliation; he was challenging Catholics in the CAR to something that may have seemed insurmountable to them.

The people of the CAR live amid a recurring cycle of violence between Christians and Muslims, each retaliating in their turn, according to Catholic News Service reports. Faith communities live in clustered neighborhoods that are divided by buffer zones patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers.

We are far from such division in the United States. But if we give into our lowest impulses, allow division to further alienate us from one another, we won’t be far behind.
The solution is mercy — in both the giving and the receiving of God’s mercy.

Pope Francis, during his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8, described the Year of Mercy as a gift of grace.

“The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history,” he said.


Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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