A flyer with the title Mercy in the City crossed my desk recently. An internet search showed there is also a book with the same title. The goal of the author, Kerry Weber, was to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and keep her day job.
It’s the story of how one young adult attempts to complete each of the corporal works of mercy during Lent. She discovers that it is more about living the spirituality of mercy as a way of life essential to the Christian journey.
During these Easter days in this year of Mercy, I have been asking myself the questions:
Where do I see, or where do I find, mercy in my neighbourhood?
Was it in the flyer we received in the post, inviting us to a free community BBQ where we found Christ Mission Possible feeding the hungry and housing the homeless in our neighbourhood?
Having lived in Western Sydney for a number of years I was surprised to see the number of people truly struggling for life’s basics: a home and a daily meal.
Mercy was in the relationships, respect and dignity of the people at this community gathering, not just in the food and houses. I believe that mercy and justice go hand in hand, posing serious questions about employment, a living wage, and access to affordable and social housing.
The following day while heading to a city meeting, I parked my car at the train station. I saw a young woman who was yelling loudly across the car park at a male companion. She walked away visibly distressed.
When I arrived at the station platform, there she was, distressed and crying. While I was trying quickly to work out how to best ‘show her mercy’, a young lady approached her and offered her a packet of tissues from her bag. She sat down beside the woman to listen to her story.
Then she did something that surprised me, but shouldn’t have. She put her arm on the woman’s shoulder and asked quietly if it was OK if she prayed with her. After this moment of prayer, the woman was much calmer.
They boarded the train and these two strangers sat together to continue the conversation.
I had seen the Easter Scripture reading – the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I had been tempted to interrupt their quiet conversation and ask them that famous question: “What are you two talking about as you walk this road.” (Journey on this train.)
These two strangers who listened to each other and joined in conversation were transforming each other, and challenging me.
Through the simple act of kindness, offering a distressed stranger a tissue and sitting beside them to listen to their story, I had been reminded of and seen the witness of the simplicity of mercy.
Pope Francis challenges us: “In this Holy Year, open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! Those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by indifference! Be called even more to heal these wounds with mercy, solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new!” (Misericordiae Vultus 15)
So how are we progressing on the way of mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy?