The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.
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Spirited Words

See below for a collection of reflections, writings, essays, poems, and other contributions that the ISH community has submitted over the years. We hope you enjoy.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to our blog, please contact Anyang Anyang <anyanganyang@ish-tmc.org>. We publish writing that relates to our mission of enhancing well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health.

 

The Year of Mercy: What It’s About

By Susana McCollom

December 14th, 2015

Fr. Donald Nesti, CSSp, is on the ISH Board of Trustees, and beloved in the community for his tremendous wisdom, warmth, and spirit.  We thank Fr. Nesti for sharing his insight around the meaning of this special Jubilee year, with Pope Francis’ focus on mercy, “to find newness of life, love and joy.” Fr. Nesti is the Director of the Center for Faith & Culture at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

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The greatest challenge facing us in this millennium is what St. John Paul II called “the spirituality of communion.” To live that spirituality means that we look upon every person as a gift for us and see ourselves as a gift for them. Neither we nor they are complete without each other’s gift. To live this spirituality is to live a life of mercy, to love the other even when we do not think that they merit that love. The God of Mercy “causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.” (Gospel according to Matthew 5:45)   So, too, must we if we are to create a civilization of love.

Mercy is God’s first attribute, the attribute that trumps his justice. For Christians this is seen clearly in Christ’s words as he dies on the Cross, “Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing.” At that moment, God turns against himself and makes no one a scapegoat. It is the moment of ending all human scapegoating schemes which seek to remedy society’s ills by heaping blaming violence on others, from any form of bullying to its most horrendous form in genocide. Mercy is love which is extended to others without their having to merit it. It goes beyond compassion which is a love that shares the suffering of others. Mercy is therefore God’s way of bringing justice into the world, the healing of all relationships, by giving each the love that is his/her due. It is the most profound way to show respect for another. It contains within it the greatest act of love by saying to the other, “It is good that you exist!”

The essence of the Christian vocation is to model that mercy in all of its actions for the world. Pope Francis has opened a special door in St. Peter’s, the Jubilee door, which symbolizes God’s desire to receive with love all who walk on life’s journey in their brokenness, suffering, self-doubt and lack of a sense of their personal dignity. The Jubilee Year, a year of special grace, invites us to receive God’s mercy and to extend that mercy to others. The door is open for all to find newness of life, love and joy. Traditionally, Catholics have expressed the ways in which they are called to open the doors of God’s Mercy; they list them as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Notice that they are works, tangible actions that are the “doors” through which God’s Mercy is communicated by each of us to others on life’s journey. They are described as follows:

Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Admonish sinners
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Forgive offenses
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Pray for the living and the dead

It quickly becomes evident that these have both individual and social implications. It is for us, both as individuals and as communities, to discern the implications of each of these in the lived contexts in which we find ourselves. They also describe the outreach we are called upon to make to the marginalized, the alienated, society’s “poor.”

Mercy, too, is the longing at the heart of all world religions. It is the foundation of one human culture. It is the invitation to learn to live in a school of self-transcending love which seeks the common good in common. It is the opposite of any form of narcissism. Mercy, therefore, holds before us the vision of the possibility of the unity of all human kind. Mercy’s face is Hope.

Sara Moore