Recently my friend Hedwig Lewis gave me his latest book entitled PERSONS ARE OUR BEST GIFTS. The book is published by Convivial Press, USA. It is a collection of inspirational stories. Here I would like to share with you one story from the book. As you can see, it is a real life.
“During his three-year tenure as Chief of the Naval Staff (1979-1982), Admiral Ronald Lynsdale Pereira was called for a meeting with the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi. His flag lieutenant (an admiral’s ADC) Caption B. R. Sen arranged the admiral’s schedule so that they would reach the PM’s office on time.
“On the way, however, Admiral Pereira spotted a youth staggering along the pavement with an elderly man on his back. Pereira ordered his driver to stop, got out and asked what the matter was. The youngster explained that he was carrying his sick father to the All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi’s premier government hospital, because he could not afford a taxi.
“Pereira turned to Sen. ‘We’ll take them’, he said. When Sen kept protesting, the admiral told him to shut up and helped the two men into his car. The AIIMS doctors looked dazed as the lean, six-foot-two, ramrod-straight admiral, his uniform ablaze with medal-ribbons, swept in and announced that the elderly man was his relative. Saying, ‘I’ll be back; make sure he’s better’, the admiral left, and they reached Mrs Gandhi’s residence about 15 minutes late.
“Captain Sen was impressed. Everyone in Delhi, no matter how senior, was petrified of Mrs Gandhi. To risk her wrath for the sake of a poor, sick stranger! It was an unforgettable lesson in courage and compassion. But it was typical of Ronnie Pereira. He always did what he felt to be right – and to hell with the consequence”. (Page 189)
The story of Admiral Pereira appeals to me as a story of mercy. Mercy is another word for genuine love. Here I am happy to note that Pope Francis has called the Christians to celebrate a Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 to November 2016. The purpose of the Year of Mercy is to celebrate God’s mercy to all of us and shares that mercy with all people through love and forgiveness.
We all need God’s mercy because we recognize ourselves as sinners. So we need God’s forgiveness and love. We are sorry for our sins and short-comings. When we acknowledge them before God we experience his forgiving mercy.
Poet William Blake in his poem “The Divine Image” says:
“For Mercy has a human Heart.”
In the same poem poet Blake sings again,
“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress”.
As Blake says, we all pray to God for mercy as we are actually aware of our need for God’s mercy shown to us through God’s forgiveness and love.
Often in our real life we forget God’s mercy for us as we are often concerned more about justice and truth. But mercy is not separate from justice and truth. If justice and truth is one side of a coin, then mercy is the other side. They go together.
The Bible often recalls God’s mercy. Here I recall just a few quotes from the Bible. Repenting on his grave sins King David prays: “Let the Lord himself be the one to punish me, because he is merciful.” (1 Chronicles 21:13)
In a prayer for forgiveness Psalmist sings:
“Be merciful to me, O God,
Because of you constant love”. (Psalm 51:1)
Then, in a prayer for help Psalmist pleads before God with trust:
“But your compassion, Lord, is great;
Show your mercy and save me!” (Psalm 119:156)
Lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem the poet in the book of “Lamentations” expresses his hope and trust in God:
“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue” (Lem 3:22).
The prophet Habakkuk of the 7th century B.C. prays recalling the unfaithfulness and idol worship his people and God’s faithfulness.
“Be merciful, even when you are angry” (Hab. 3:2).
These biblical quotes reveal that men and women may fail and sin grievously but God is always constant in his mercy.
When we come to New Testament of the Bible we see that God’s mercy is personified in Jesus. There we see innumerable instances of mercy shown by Jesus to the poor, sick and the needy persons.
The Jewish leaders like the Pharisees criticized Jesus for associating himself with sinners and eating with them. But Jesus answered them: “It is mercy that I want, not animal sacrifices” (Mt 9:13)
In the Gospel according to St. Luke 10 lepers pleaded with Jesus for mercy.
“They stood a distance and shouted, Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us” (Lk 17:13). Showing God’s mercy Jesus cured them all from their dreadful disease.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans and the Ephesians portrays God as “the merciful Father” (2 Cor. 1:3) and as “God, who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4).
Then, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus himself proclaims: “Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them” (Mt. 5:7).
Coming back to Pope Francis, I think that he can very well be described as “the Pope of Mercy” or “The Merciful Pope”. In this Encyclical letter “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis has used the word “mercy” no less than 32 times.
Pope Francis has appealed to the world to provide homes to the refugees and night shelters to the homeless people who sleep on the footpath of our cities. He also sets an example providing night shelters to the homeless at Rome with comfortable beds and morning breakfast to about 100 homeless people making space for them in two Vatican institutions.
Pope Francis in his letter on the Holy Year of Mercy has said that he wants the Church to live in the light of Jesus words:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 36).
As Pope Francis has referred in his letter on the Holy Year of Mercy to the call of mercy in other religions, saying: “There is an aspect to mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. He says that Muslims often refer to the creator as “Merciful and Kind”. Then the Jewish Scripture and their religious practices “are steeped in mercy”.
Finally, Pope Francis writes: “Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help!” We need to make fruitful God’s mercy to us by showing mercy ourselves to people in need of love and mercy.
Even if there is no call from Pope Francis and if there is no scripture to exhort us about mercy we know and our times specially demand that we need to show and practice mercy to our fellow men and women deprived of basic needs of life. But the question is, “Am I merciful?” “Can I show mercy to those who cross my path needing mercy?”
Last change : 16-11-2015
Next change on : 01-12-2015
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ, 2015