Mercy Heals

Strange but true! It was the story of a prostitute that taught Pope Francis the full meaning of mercy!  He says it himself in the sixth chapter of the book The Name of God is Mercy[1], a book-length interview of Pope Francis by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli

It happened in Argentina when he was the pastor of a fairly large parish. The woman, who had no steady income, would call on him and he helped her by providing money and food. She was alone, her husband had abandoned the family, she had small children. When money was scarce, she would prostitute herself to provide for her family.

One day during the Christmas season the mother visited again the future Pope. He thought she was going to thank him for the package of food the parish had sent to her. “Did you receive it?” he asked her. “Yes, yes, thank you for that, too,” the mother explained. “But I came here today to thank you because you never stopped calling me Señora.”

“Experiences like this teach you how important it is to welcome people delicately and not wound their dignity,” Pope Francis stated in the book.

For her, the fact that the parish priest continued to call her Señora, even though he probably knew how she led her life during the months when she could not work, was as important – or perhaps even more important than – the concrete help that we gave her.

God always keep calling us ‘Señora’. Indeed, mercy is God’s identity card. Mercy goes beyond the outer façade of sin and sees something beautiful in each one of us. He never dehumanizes us. On the contrary his mercy always ennobles us.

 

Saint John of the Cross

This is also what the Carmelite John of the Cross believed.  His vision of humanity is so beautiful.

God wants to be ours, to give himself to us (cf. Living Flame of Love B, 3,6) –  this is the profound scope of his mercy: “Oh, how worthy of utter admiration and joy! God is taken captive by a hair! The reason of this captivity – so estimable – is that God wished to stop and gaze at the fluttering of the hair, as the preceding verse asserts. “And as we pointed out: For God, to gaze at is to love. If in his infinite mercy he had not gazed at us and loved us first – as St. John declares (1 J  4:10, 19) – and descended, the hair of our lowly love would not have taken him prisoner…”

“But because he came down to gaze at us and arouse the flight of our love by strengthening and giving it the courage for this… he himself as a result was captivated by the flight of the hair, that is, he was satisfied and pleased. Such is the meaning of the verses: ‘You gazed at it upon my neck and it captivated you.’” (Spiritual Canticle B, 31,8).

Thus for John of the Cross mercy does not consist solely in turning his eyes from our defects, but it also makes us grow, lifts us up, inviting us to do the same with others: “Lord, you return gladly and lovingly to lift up the one who offends you, but I do not turn to raise and honor the one who annoys me” (Sayings of Light and Love, 47). As the Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love, which may justly be called the prayer of mercy, sings: “You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay (ib. 26)”.

Dwelling within us, God beautifies us with works worthy of himself; he allows us to share in his attributes (cf. Living Flame of Love B, 3,6). This, always by the path of contemplation that leads us to union with God, fathoming the abundant mine of treasures that is Christ (cf. Spiritual Canticle B, 37,4).

We are God’s favorites! Mercy restores and rectifies. From sinners it makes us saints!

 

Mary

On the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, the two General Superiors of the Carmelite Orders[2] wrote jointly a letter to all Carmelites in which they outlined how the spirit of the Order is the true spirit of mercy flowing on us and through us. We simply cannot be Carmelites without having mercy bursting through us.  We are sons and daughters of a God who is rich in mercy! And in this letter, they invite us to look at Mary, to look at our saints so that we too, like them, can be imbued with mercy.

Mary is the mother of Carmel. She is also the mother of mercy. Why? For four reasons, argues Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD in his series of articles at www. thedivinemercy.org/

“First of all, we said that Mary is Mother of Mercy because, through her Immaculate Conception, God made her the created masterpiece of His Mercy in the world. Second, we can call her Mother of Mercy because she was the one chosen by God to be the Mother of our merciful Savior, Mercy Incarnate; she literally brought Divine Mercy Himself to birth in our world. Third, we can call her Mother of Mercy because she showed us the way to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Through living her ten “evangelical virtues,” she set the shining example for us of true Christian discipleship, and this was a great work of mercy she did for us all. Finally, we said that Mary is our Mother of Mercy because, from heaven, she continues to come to our aid with her intercessory prayers, nurturing and caring for all of our needs, both of body and of soul, from now until the hour of our death.” Gosh, what a mother!

Saint Faustina recounts, “Once, the confessor told me to pray for his intention, and I began a novena to the Mother of God. This novena consisted in the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen” recited nine times. Toward the end of the novena I saw the Mother of God with the Infant Jesus in her arms. … I could not stop wondering at His beauty. … I heard a few of the words that the Mother of God spoke. … The words were: “I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy, and your Mother” (Diary of St. Faustina, 330).

 

Saint Thérèse

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus is even more explicit “This is the mystery of my vocation, my whole life […], the privileges Jesus showered on my soul. He does not call those who are worthy but those whom He pleases or as St. Paul says: ‘God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will show pity to whom he will show pity. So then there is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy’” (Ms A 2ro).  It is all about God!

He is the hen who wants to mercifully gather her young under her wings (cf. Her Last Conversations, June 7, 1). The world does not understand his tenderness; it rejects it. That is why Thérèse throws herself decidedly – against the tide of her times – into the arms of merciful love, to which she offers herself as a victim in order that he would “not hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within” him that he desires to lavish on humanity (cf. Ms A 84ro).

“To me,” she asserts in her autobiography, “[God] has granted His infinite Mercy, and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections! All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love; even His justice […]. What a sweet joy it is to think that God is Just, i.e., that He takes into account our weakness, that He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature” (ib. 83vo-84ro).

Thérèse experienced this in her life. She discovered a Love that humbles itself down to the poorest human heart, that heals it and lifts it without considering its miseries or faults. Love that she will struggle to make known, sitting even at the table of those who have distanced themselves, of the unbelievers (cf. Ms C 6ro), making us understand once again that in Christ we can be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.[3]

This kind of mercy heals. I know it because I have experienced it…


[1] The Name of God is Mercy Deckle Edge, 2016 by Pope Francis

[2] Reverend Father Fernando Millán O. Carm , and Reverend Father Saverio Cannistrà OCD

[3] These reflections on the Carmelite Saints were inspired mainly from the  June 11 joint letter from the Carmelite Generals sent to the Carmelite and Discalced Carmelite Orders cfr :. http://www.carmelitaniscalzi.com/en/letter-from-the-ocarm-and-ocd-generals/

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.