Kyrie Eleison: The “Year of Mercy” Can’t Come Too Soon…

G. Rosa--Grosasm via Creative Commons
G. Rosa–Grosasm via Creative Commons

“The mercy of God is not an abstract idea but a concrete reality,” writes Pope Francis.

Well thanks be to God for this emphatic good news, and for the nearly here Jubilee of Mercy. That it begins one week into Advent — the sweet and lonely season of anticipation for the coming of the All Merciful — seems especially appropriate and hopeful, given our times, for at the Incarnation Mercy was delivered, in fragile and human form, to a brutal world of tribalism and inequality, where life was held cheap and public shaming the norm. The Church’s Year of Mercy arrives into a world that may be all-too-similarly described. Kyrie eleison.

In recent months, we have gasped in horror at videos in which doctors discussed procuring and selling intact organs from aborted babies and demonstrated organ retrieval while casually observing, “It’s another boy.” We watched, confounded, as the press attempted to downplay the revelation, even as they went wall-to-wall with the story of a big-game-hunting American dentist who became “the most hated man in the world” for killing an innocent lion. Christe eleison.

The death of innocence is always noteworthy, but no longer with a predictable sense of priority, either by the news media or by the shaming mobs, who would drive a dentist-villain into hiding for fear of his life, even as their taxes were used to fund abortionists.

Meanwhile, the persecution of ancient Christian societies went barely mentioned; meanwhile, the slaughters in the Sudan progressed, unimpeded by public outrage; meanwhile, governments seemed curiously unwilling to address any of that, to little criticism. As all manner of horrors were (and are) being perpetrated against humanity, by human beings, we seemed content to totter in benumbed ignorance. Kyrie eleison.

Lately, when I am asked for prayer, it is this small Greek prayer for mercy, recited at every Mass, that bubbles up within me: Lord, have mercy.

God’s mercy endures forever, but 2,000 years into our redemption it seems we are still trying to wrap our heads and hearts around what “mercy” means — and upon whom it should be bestowed, or denied. As Christians, forgiveness is part of our spiritual DNA, but too often you wouldn’t know it. Perhaps our inability to process the mystery of mercy is what keeps us from making better use of the confessional. We see a world of darkness and wonder how it is possible that God could have such mercy upon us, when we have so little mercy for ourselves, and even less for one another.

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