Sunday, September 29, 2013

The...Healing...All...That...Is...Mercy

"Mercy..." "...Mercy…" and still more "Mercy," is the word we are hearing again and again from Pope Francis. Our, Pastor of Pastors, is in reality just reminding us, and I am in the need of being constantly reminded of a gift that is always being offered. We must also be cognizant of the fact that 75% of the parables of Rabbi Jesus were about the mercy and compassion of God.  Jesus, Who became The Christ, is seen as the enfleshment of the mercy of God. We are  all in the constant need of "the medicine of mercy." Thanks to our Prodigal Father-God it is always made available to us. All that needs to be done is ask for mercy, and forgiveness, and it is ours.  We can use the words put into the mouth of the publican by Jesus," Lord, God be merciful to me a sinner."  We also have in our spiritual heritage, The Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Our Pope encourages us to keep asking for forgiveness. Why is he so encouraging us?  Simply  because our Prodigal loves to forgive. So then let God do what God does best. The "best of God," meets the worst of us and in this encounter a new reality is created through the action of creative love. We are required to reverence this new reality that has resulted from the encounter  of opposites. We can never understand the miracle of grace, only gaze in awe-full wonder as we are drawn into a new, and unimaginable reality. This is God's deepest wish: "I will, not the death of the sinner,  rather that he be converted and live." Let us then, just have the desire for this miracle of grace to happen and in the depths of our being, a new creation will take root. It is only in Kairos time, God's time, will we become aware, ever so slowly of this new life now breaking through. The image of a wondrous flower breaking through the brown earth, in a very out of the way place, comes to mind. It will not have much of an impact on the world but to our world an inexhaustible source of joy has entered.

          That word "converted,"  from which we have, "conversion," is a great word.  It means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. It also involves a new way of seeing. To be converted then is to admit, to own the fact that we are going in the wrong direction and seeing in a spiritual unhealthy manner. We need then a new way of seeing, leading to a new way of being. This is not easy. It is tough to go through a conversion. Yet on this hike/ journey we have to be converted again and again. Always changing, always seeing anew, and never ending. This can only happen under the guidance of The Creative Loving Spirit. Since the spirit is invisible, we will not be able, with the naked eye, to actually see the process that is taking place. May I be so bold as to suggest a new understanding of mercy is essential for an ever evolving healthy spirituality. This will lead to the freedom envisioned by God for you and I.

      What then is the life enriching understanding of that word mercy which is so much part of our Pope's vocabulary, as in the following.  "A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold, and more just." What warmth, what compassion, what understanding, what acceptance, has exuded from our Pope. He speaks to us of the God of mercy and he encourages us to administer "the medicine of mercy." Mercy as medicine? New to us in the Latin church but not in Orthodox spirituality. One writer has suggested that The Pope has borrowed the Orthodox understanding of mercy. The Orthodox understanding really expands that old narrow understanding of mercy as just  being about the forgiveness of our sins. I have found, over the years, that mercy as understood in other languages has really broadened its meaning for me. The following has brought about about a great personal conversion, which has resulted in a new freedom. The following is being offered for your personal reflection, and spiritual nourishment: "The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. The word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, olive oil: a substance which was used exclusively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured into the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for "Lord, have mercy are "kyrie, eleison" that is to say, "Lord soothe, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love. Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal a very western interpretation but to the infinite loving-likedness of God, and His compassion for his suffering children!"(Orthodox Worship)

             So we can see what the Pope is driving at. Mercy is that which sooth the pain that sin brings into our reality. Mercy is there to comfort those who are in some way victimized by acts contrary to the universal law of love.  It brings healing to the beaten, broken, betrayed, exploited of our sisters and brothers. Healing Sin, as I think of it now is:  a non loving act which in some way  makes it  now more difficult for me or another to freely respond to the offer of God's love. Sin is that action or non- action by which the loving, creative action of God is opposed or hindered. I have to face sin in relationship to myself, my neighbor, God, and all of creation. Wounds can happen so suddenly, but it takes time, sometimes, a long, long time for the healing to take place. Healing cannot be rushed, darn it, how often have I wished it were otherwise!!  This is getting too long, right?? Will continue next blog D.V.