A Reflection for the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy
When we look at the Ministry of Jesus during His earthly journey, we see the sign of the Christian Church in all its centrality. The signs Jesus worked in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick together with all those on the margins of society. 'Everything in the life of Jesus spoke of Mercy' (Pope Francis).
We see all this very clearly in the miracles Jesus worked in His dealing with the people who came to Him
The healing of the leper Matthew 8 1-13
The healing of the paralytic Matthew 9 1-8
The healing of the man with the withered hand Matthew 12 9-14
The raising of the widow’s son Luke 7 11-17
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman shows us so much about being non-judgemental of others. Our Lady too, teaches us about the quality of Mercy by her understanding for the young couple at the Marriage Feast when the wine ran out, her simple words 'do whatever he tells you'.
The situations in the world around us give us opportunity for reflection when we continually see the absence of Mercy and we are daily left with unanswered questions. Statistics tell us about the fragmented lives of young people who adhere to social media for solace which often leaves them rejected and tempted to take their own lives.
Sadly, in our Western Culture there is a deep inner spiritual hunger which can only be addressed by questions such as who am I? what is my purpose in life? and who is the other in my life?
Loneliness, according to the Mental Health Foundation, is a huge reality in the lives of young people and Covid 19 has isolated many of the elderly in our community with the media constantly telling us to ‘stay indoors’, ‘keep distancing’ and ‘do not let anyone into your home’. Just think of all the grandparents who did not see their grandchildren for months on end.
The youth are continually troubled by feelings of stress, anxiety and many are on regular medication to enable them to cope with just everyday pressures and tension within the home. Young people have a need to present an idealized version of themselves on social media and to have “online” friends and to present numerous social engagements, but the truth is that such happenings do not always lead to inner peace and happiness.
While having the privilege of walking with the poorest people in the world during my ministry in Nairobi slums where people lived in shacks without running water, electricity and any kind of privacy I never met a lonely person. People were always around talking and laughing. If a child went home from school and his/her shack was locked up for whatever reason another mother took the child in and was able to satisfy the child with information such as ‘your mum has gone up country because your grandmother is ill’. People in the slums know each other and each other’s families and there is always food for one other person.
As people called to a life dedicated to Mercy in the journey marked out by Catherine McAuley, the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy gives us an opportunity to reflect on her life and charism. She was a Leader in the way of Mercy. We know her story so well. She saw a need and did something about it. In her early days in Baggot Street, she and her followers targeted women and children who were the forgotten in society because they were poor, sick or educationally disadvantaged. One of her favourite maxims to the Sisters was ‘need is your cloister’. She built her house in Baggot Street so that the poor were visible to the rich.
If Catherine came today whom would she target? I think the answer is easy. Possibly it would be: -
Women and children who are trafficked refugees.
Workers who are not paid a fair wage.
The families from Afghanistan who were turned back in the English Channel last week.
People who are marginalized because of race, colour or religion.
As Sisters of Mercy, worldwide, we try to answer the call of MERCY in an evolving manner. In order to embrace the mercy at the heart of our charism we pledge ourselves to ask uncomfortable questions.
How might we respond anew to the compassionate presence of god in our different realities?
What is the understanding of diversity among us?
Do we allow ourselves to be interconnected with the community around us and learn from their culture and giftedness?
The call to keep Mercy at the centre of our lives is never easy, but attentiveness to the Word of God in scripture and fidelity to our inner voice helps us to be the merciful compassionate presence of God to all whom we meet each day.
Some of Catherine’s maxims
The poor need help today not next week
Remember if there were a thousand regulations to be observed the most important is charity
We can never say it is enough
The sisters of mercy should be particularly kind; the kindest people on earth with the tenderest pity and compassion for the poor.
This is god’s work not mine; it will do just as well without me.
Sr. Assumpta Walsh 18/9/2021