The Next Years of Mercy

The Year of Mercy wrapped up. Despite its closing Pope Francis urges us to continue to walk to the path of mercy. To help me follow Francis’s lead, I reflected on what truth grew in me during this year with hope that this truth will continue to grow. Here are three lessons I was mercy’d with:

1) Forgiveness involves change.

Forgiveness is more than words, but a re-opening of the heart toward the forgiven, an accommodation. The words "I forgive you" alone do not involve a change in the reality of my heart, making it again a new creation, a Christ-like creation. The re-opening, I've learned, is rarely total and can be fleeting. But some re-opening must occur for forgiveness to be happening. Although the words in themselves are never enough, the humility and desire required to mutter them may cause the first crack toward the heart's re-opening. Mercy, like every other experience of the Mystery, changes us.

2) Salvation is right in front of me.

 The degree to which I have lived mercy contributes to my experience of living freely and joyfully. The heart’s most natural disposition is open, and living mercy restores the heart. So salvation is not something far away or a goal I will achieve after crafting the “perfect family,” or becoming the “perfect new evangelist.” Salvation is lived every day that I love my wife in front of me, the co-worker who rubs me the wrong way, or even my enemy. The restored heart is a saved heart.

3) Time is a Mercy

This one came from my wife and, admittedly, after the Year of Mercy. But it does provide a way for me to look back on the Year of Mercy and forward to the coming years of mercy. We spent Thanksgiving with her 80-something year old grandparents in Wisconsin. They are simple, joyful, generous, and generative. It took a long life of living mercy for them to be changed into the living saints that they are today. Instead of lamenting how the heck we could ever turn out like that as a couple or as individuals, my wife expressed gratitude for time. Time is space given to us by God in which his life can grow in us and transform us. Ongoing conversion. Time itself is a mercy.

Here's to many more years of mercy! Have a blessed time waiting for Mercy this Advent.