By Joe Towalski
Mercy isn't a popular word in our culture today.
"People get what they deserve." "Payback is sweet." "I'll never forgive them for what they've done."
These sentiments pervade our politics, our entertainment industry and our own lives. And, we see them play out in numerous ways:
-- In public policies that cut services to the chronically poor.
-- In the deportation of undocumented immigrants, even when it means splitting apart vulnerable families.
-- In support for capital punishment laws that are rooted in vengeance rather than justice and rehabilitation.
-- In movies that glorify violence and revenge.
-- In the grudges we hold for years against family members who have wronged us.
-- In our quickness to judge others for their perceived faults and transgressions.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines mercy as "the loving kindness, compassion or forbearance shown to one who offends." It's a virtue that Pope Francis has talked a lot about during his first year. In a recent homily, he once again urged Christians to show more mercy in their daily lives. He said that when we admit our own sinfulness and ask God for forgiveness, we become better able to show mercy to others.
That's a good suggestion for the remaining days of Lent. There is no better time than this penitential season to take stock of our own shortcomings, ask God for forgiveness and then open our hearts a little wider in the spirit of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, which comes a week later.
Let's challenge ourselves to do two things:
First, go to confession. No matter if it's been a few months, a few years or many decades since you last went, rest assured the priest will welcome you to this healing sacrament. You will experience God's gift of mercy and forgiveness, the grace to start again anew, and a heart that's opened a little wider.
Second, commit to doing one act of mercy before Easter. Volunteer at a food shelf or homeless shelter. Perform a "random act of kindness" for a newcomer in your community. Take part in a prison ministry program or visit. Forgive someone who has wronged you in the past. Let go of an old grudge.
Mercy isn't a popular word in our culture today, but we can let our actions speak to the rest of society, witnessing to the hope, compassion and forgiveness that our world so desperately needs.
From the March 27 issue of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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