Mercy is love put into action

By Jeff Hedglen

North Texas Catholic

10/19/2015

There is a lot of talk about Pope Francis and mercy. Everywhere he goes he attracts so much attention for his acts of mercy. Whether it is his washing the feet of young people at a juvenile detention center or his touching and kissing those afflicted with various maladies or his lunching with the homeless or his decision to erect showers for the homeless at the Vatican. He is also quite outspoken about how faith in Jesus, God’s love incarnate and bringer of mercy, necessarily involves acts of mercy on our part.

Sometimes we may have no idea on how we can put this call to give mercy into action. We might be tempted to think that it is easy for Pope Francis; After all he is the pope! Or we might think that we are not holy enough or not equipped enough to be a dispenser of mercy. But I would like to offer one way we can all put the call into action. For me this idea came from one of the greatest men I have ever known.

For many years during funerals at my parish a challenge was laid out. One of my personal mentors, teachers, and a genuinely inspiring man, was the person who was called when a parishioner died. He was the person who helped the family navigate the process of burying their loved one. He was the calm in the storm of countless families. He would help them choose a funeral home and pick the Scripture readings and music for the Mass — and help them with the countless details we seldom think about, but are very necessary when the time comes.

But the thing that stands out to me the most is when, at the funeral, Phil Record would challenge all in attendance to not forget the people in the reserved section at the church. These family members, he would say, will still be hurting in a week, a month, and a year from now. He would say that soon all the out of town visitors would be leaving, and the busyness surrounding the funeral would pass away, and this is when the real grief would come, in waves.

What Phil Record was challenging us all to do is to live one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy — Comfort the Sorrowful. This is even more important in the coming weeks as many of the people we know and love are experiencing their first Thanksgiving and Christmas without their loved one.

We comfort those who are in sorrow in many ways:
Listen to them, really listen, no need to tell them “it will be all right” or that their loved one “is in a better place” or that “everything happens for a reason.” Even if all of these things are true, when you are hurting these things do not ease the pain. What helps is asking them to tell stories about the person and listening to these stories. 

Do things for them. Often we say, “If you need anything, just let me know.” That is nice, but it is really hard to ask for help when we are hurting. Instead, think of what you might like in a similar situation and just do that thing. Cook a meal and bring it over. If it looks like their yard needs mowing, mow it. If you are going to spend the day running errands, invite them along. They have errands to do too, and could probably use the company.

Send them flowers (or chocolate); who doesn’t like to get gifts? This idea is especially helpful if you do not live near them.
Sit with them. Sometimes all we need to do is hang out with them, especially if they live alone. Join them for a Netflix binge or a walk in the park or a game of cards. In truth it is not all that important what you do to comfort those in sorrow; all that matters is that you be present in whatever way you can.

Mercy is love put into action. We celebrate the ultimate act of mercy at Christmas, and it is precisely at this time of year when many people need your love for them put into action.

 

There is a lot of talk about Pope Francis and mercy. Everywhere he goes he attracts so much attention for his acts of mercy. Whether it is his washing the feet of young people at a juvenile detention center or his touching and kissing those afflicted with various maladies or his lunching with the homeless or his decision to erect showers for the homeless at the Vatican. He is also quite outspoken about how faith in Jesus, God’s love incarnate and bringer of mercy, necessarily involves acts of mercy on our part.

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