In this age of the demise of many magazines because of the great growth of information on the Internet, a small Christian community in New York known as the Bruderhof has bravely begun to publish the Plough Quarterly, an excellent new publication said to be “breaking ground for a renewed world.”
The theme of the Winter 2016 issue, which I received earlier this month, is just their seventh one, and it is a good one. Each issue has a theme expressed in one word, and the theme of the new issue is “Mercy.”
A week ago, on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (about which I wrote in my previous article), the Jubilee Year of Mercy began in the Catholic Church.
Back in April, Pope Francis issued a public statement that the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy would begin on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. And he went on to declare, “The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive.”
I don’t fully understand all that is meant by the Jubilee Year, but I do comprehend that Pope Francis is calling upon Catholics, and all Christians, to “live lives shaped by mercy.”
According to Catholic teachings, seven types of actions are called “the corporeal works of mercy.” They include the seven things you see in the following image:
So even though they are on a vastly different scale, a small Protestant group and the large and powerful Catholic Church are emphasizing mercy at the very same time. That seems to be highly appropriate, for in the Bible the prophet Micah spoke these powerful words about God’s desire for us humans:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (6:8, NIV)
Acts of mercy are central to the Christian faith.
One definition of mercy is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.” The dictionary’s third definition of mercy is “compassionate treatment of those in distress.”
As I understand it, the Bible’s emphasis on mercy is particularly of the latter type—and that is the type of mercy found in the Catholic Church’s list of “corporeal works of mercy.”
Recently (here) I was critical of Kentucky’s new governor and the other (mostly Republican) governors who are so negative about accepting Syrian refugees. Of course there has to be extensive checks on those coming into this country and the safety of U.S. citizens must always be a matter of great concern.
But why does anyone think the President or the (mostly Democratic) governors who want to receive Syrian refugees are not concerned about the safety issue? Of course they are.
Like so many other current matters, the acceptance of Syrian refugees into this country is to a large degree a political issue.
Among other things, the Republican presidential candidates have greatly exaggerated the number of Syrian refugees being considered. Donald Trump even charged that the President wants to bring 250,000 into this country. But the real figure under consideration for 2016 is around 10,000.
It is a real shame that politicians (and the segment of the public supporting those politicians) put politics ahead of mercy. I have it on good authority (see Matthew 5:7) that it is the merciful who will be blessed; for to them mercy will be shown.