Tuesday, November 08, 2016

What We Were Obliged to Do

By Melanie Rigney

Alphonse Legros [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
You must say what is consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance. Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.  (Titus 2:1:5)

Turn away from evil and do good, that you may abide forever; the just shall possess the land and dwell in it forever. (Psalm 37:27, 29)

Jesus said to the Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10)

“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta

Less than a month remains of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. And yet, many of us have been unable to summon up even a modicum of mercy for the major-party U.S. presidential candidates and, by extension, our families, and friends who disagree with our choice. That’s the thing about mercy; it sounds so good in theory and is so difficult to offer in practice.

We have been through months of increasing contentious, disrespectful rhetoric, accusations, and outright falsehood. There is no reason to think that will end after the election. But there is every reason to turn to the King for hope.

Like many of you, I have spent time with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship and Conscience Formation Bulletin insert and other publications. But it’s the USCCB’s descriptions of the spiritual works of mercy that I kept finding myself returning to as I considered all the rancor not just between the candidates but among friends and acquaintances. Some excerpts:
  • Counseling the doubtful: The guidance we are given for those struggling with belief includes “Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed n your actions.” Could that advice not apply in all situations?
  • Instructing the ignorant: “Learn about our faith and be open to talking to others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.”
  • Admonishing the sinner: “Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ.”
  • Forgiving injuries: “Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God.”
Now, I’m pretty certain that whatever happens today, the United States will survive. I’m even more certain that the Lord will continue to bless each and every one of us… and desire us to show mercy to one another, even those whom we find difficult to understand, let alone forgive and love. As Pope Francis said in announcing the Jubilee year, “Our salvation depends on (the mystery of mercy).”

Show Christ’s mercy to someone with whom you disagree.

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