Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why We NEED a Year of Mercy...Maybe a Decade...a Century...

or however many the Pope can spare.

By now, everyone worth quoting has weighed in on the Starbucks Red Scare cups.  I don't frequent Starbucks because I don't drink coffee.  I used to go and get a hot chocolate when I had a Mother's day out, but with the advent of a Keurig in our home, it isn't a need or even a want.  That being said, I've seen a lot of internet ink spilled explaining how it isn't a war on Christmas, that no one should be offended, and that anyone who is offended, is being a goofball, making a tempest in a Venti cup. As  an opening salvo in this year's "War on Christmas" cry, it doesn't even merit a bah humbug.  So Starbucks have red cups without special snowflakes for this season.  Personally, the only reason to be upset with Starbucks for this decision, is if you have a grudge against Alabama. (Roll tide).   It's nuts.  
Ultimately, the internet always plays to the smallest heart, the smallest mind, and the most clickbaitable of responses.  Ergo, the people who thought BOYCOTT because of red cups become the poster spokes children for all Christians.  Most people will either not drink the coffee and go about their lives, or will drink the coffee and go about their lives.  Their faith will not be shaken by the container of the beverages though the beverages contained might cause the shakes.

How did we get to this point, that people hear dog whistles all the time to respond with a Pavlovian outrage?  We've lost something crucial to society, crucial to being Christian, to being human.  We presume ourselves, regardless of the stimuli, the persecuted, and the other, whatever the other is, the persecutor.   We may in fact suffer indignities, countless ones from other people, from the news, from the internet, from opposing political parities, from pundits, from songs on the radio, from popular entertainment, from whatever it is that offends.  The important element in such experiences, is how we respond, both to the offenses, and to the persons, and to all we encounter after the injury.

Which brings me to Pope Francis' proclamation of the "Year of Mercy."

It starts December 8, 2016, on The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  What does showing mercy look like?

It is forbearance in the face of actual grievances.
It is forgiveness for past pains.
It is generosity of spirit toward others.
It is healing rather than harsh.
It opts for the kindest rather than cleverest response.
It doesn't go looking to be irritated.
It doesn't presume bad faith or bad motive.
It does not expect reciprocity. It is a gift.
It heals the giver, even as it offers healing to the recipient.
Mercy cannot be given in wrath, or to prove a point.  It is uniquely personal.  It is from one person, to another.  It is a hand, offering aid.
Mercy is never what we deserve.  Mercy is always a gift beyond what is merited.

It's a funny thing, mercy, because we all hope for it for ourselves, and even when we receive it, we often do not recognize it for what it is.  We think, we lucked out, we squeezed by, or things worked out as they should be.

It will not make the papers, it will seem invisible.  Why?  Because when we are merciful, we are the most fully human we can be, the most in God's image, we can manage.

So spend this year, and in particular, the upcoming Advent, practicing the mercy you want to see in the world.

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