What comes to mind when we think of Pope Francis? I hope you think of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. All of these are hallmarks of his papacy, and in fact Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015.
How can we apply Pope Francis' vision of mercy in our daily lives? A good starting point is the physical works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captives, and burying the dead) or spiritual works of mercy (teaching the ignorant , counsel the doubters, admonish sinners, bear offenses patiently, forgive offenses readily, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead). Before we can truly engage in works of mercy, something more fundamental is required.
this papal bubblea look of mercy(The Face of Mercy) Pope Francis' declaration on the Jubilee of Mercy is profound. He affirmed: “We must continually ponder the mystery of mercy. It is a source of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it."
She defines mercy as the revelation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the supreme act by which God meets us in the incarnation of Christ, "fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every man who sincerely looks into the eyes of his brothers and sisters." on the way of life” and “the bridge that unites God and man and opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever in spite of our sin”. In order for us to fully enter into the works of mercy, we must first enter into the joy and peace that come from experiencing and sharing in God's mercy.
Share God's mercy
By first experiencing God's mercy, we can learn what mercy is and how to share it. The mercy of God can be seen throughout the history of salvation from the opening pages of Genesis to the final revelations of divine mercy to Saint Faustina. In fact, the word occurs only in the Old Testamentcompassionappears 169 times. Mercy began at the beginning of time with the mercy of God shown to Adam in the book of Genesis. God was so full of compassion for Adam's plight that he could not find a suitable mate for himself, that out of mercy God created Eve to be his helper. Here God shows us one of the first components of mercy, compassion.
Mercy of Christ
Compassion is letting our hearts reach out to feel another person's pain and joy. It's not remote sympathy; it is being with and for another person on a personal and emotional level. It requires us to put ourselves in the other person's place and thereby hurt ourselves. In a sense, the incarnation of God was the supreme act of compassion. As Saint John Paul II said in his encyclicalImmerse yourself in mercy(Rich in mercy), "In Christ and through Christ, God also makes his mercy especially visible...above all, he himself embodies and embodies it" (MD, 2).
Not only does Christ pity us, taking our humanity and even our suffering into his own passion, but he commands us when he gives us the Golden Rule in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do to others what you want them to do to you". You." (Matthew 7:12). His admonition, "He who is without sin, first cast a stone at them" (John 8:7) is also a request for compassion on our part.
Not only does Christ command us to have compassion for others, but psychology shows us its benefits. A study was conducted in which a person was placed on an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine, shocked, and then asked to record their pain levels. When the person was alone, the pain level was high. When the person held a stranger's hand, the pain level decreased slightly. When the person held the hand of a loved one, the pain was significantly less, although the person experienced the same shock all three times. This shows how compassion and love can relieve physical pain. If compassion can ease the physical pain you feel, it can also ease the emotional pain you feel.
heal your relationships
Through this alleviation of the pain caused by compassion, we can begin to heal relationships. Through sin and imperfection, pain can invade our relationship with God and with others. When we insist on justice for our wounds instead of showing compassion, the wounds can deepen instead of heal. As Saint John Paul II says, “mercy thus becomes an indispensable element in shaping mutual relationships between people, in a spirit of deep respect for what is human and in a spirit of mutual brotherhood. It is impossible to establish this connection between people if they wish only to regulate their mutual relations according to the measure of justice.MD,14).
Forgive those who have hurt you
Here we see a second essential component of mercy, forgiveness. In the face of sin and pain, it is forgiveness, not justice, that heals. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to replace unrelenting negative emotions with positive, different-looking emotions like empathy, compassion, and love. It does not mean condoning, forgetting, excusing, or justifying bad behavior. It offers mercy to those who need it most. When we sin, we are most aware of our need for mercy, as David said, “I am in great need. But let us fall into the hands of God, whose mercy is great, rather than into the hands of men” (2 Samuel 24:14). It is mercy, not justice, that can heal the wound of sin.
In addition to compassion, Jesus gives us the ultimate example of forgiveness, forgiving those who crucify him when he says, “Father, forgive them; because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). It is this forgiveness that heals the relationship between fallen man and God. Here, too, Jesus not only shows us forgiveness, but demands it from us.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus affirms that forgiveness depends on forgiving others (cf. Mt 6:12). Santiago continues in his letter: “Speak and act as men to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is merciless to those who have shown no mercy; Mercy prevails over judgment” (James 2:12-13).
In the aspect of forgiveness, psychology once again supports our Lord's commandments and example. Forgiveness is known to promote better physical health by boosting immune system function, improving cardiovascular health, and lowering chronic cortisol levels. Forgiveness also promotes better mental health and relationships, reduces anger and reflection on negative experiences, and allows for better connections with others. Finally, forgiveness promotes greater spiritual well-being, as people who are angry and resentful find their spiritual lives difficult and unfulfilled.
While it is great to realize that Christ not only commands us to be forgiven but will also bring about our own healing, how can we be forgiven when the emotional and spiritual pain of our wounds is so great? How can we achieve forgiveness when our feelings are often so contradictory? One way to achieve emotional forgiveness with Christ is to use visualizations to move our inner emotions from hurt to forgiveness and even compassion for others. Visualizations connect the head with the heart and are used by many athletes and musicians to increase their inner and outer performance. Visualizations involving Christ can be called meditations. Especially when we use Ignatian meditation methods to experience the scene with all our senses. The first half of the meditation that will help decrease our unrelenting negative emotions is as follows:
Close your eyes and look at the situation or person that hurt you. Use all your senses to put yourself in that place or with that person. Do you see? what are you feeling physically What do you hear What do you smell or taste? Now add your emotions. How are you feeling emotionally in this scene? Imagine Christ suffering with you, imagine Christ weeping with you and for you, imagine His pain for your experience. Take all those difficult emotions and pains and imagine putting them in a pine box and closing the lid on it. Now imagine giving the box to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and watching it burn with its flames of love. Finally, imagine Christ comforting you. What did he say? How do you feel in his comfort? How do you feel when you see Christ comfort you and tell you that He loves you? Then, after sitting down with those positive feelings of love and compassion that Christ has for you, move on to the second half of the meditation, which will help you connect with the other person in a compassionate way.
Now imagine Christ suffering with the other person while still connected to you. Imagine Christ reaching out to you and the other person at the same time. Imagine Christ's compassion for you both. Imagine that Christ forgives the other person and you forgive yourself with Christ. Imagine Christ in the midst of you both connecting with compassion and forgiveness. Then you see the three walking together and open your eyes.
These types of meditations, involving all your senses and your emotions, can be very healing. They are a way to leave difficulties behind and embrace the good that Christ has to offer. Often people have to do the same meditation several times before noticing a change in their emotional response. As you participate in the meditations over time, you will likely find that the emotional charge that the person or event aroused in you will lessen. In fact, as you move from the first half of the meditation to the second half, you will likely notice a sense of peace overcoming you and your relationships with others.
Pope Francis said at the prayer vigil for the Feast of Families (September 26, 2015): “There are difficulties in families, but these difficulties are resolved with love. Hatred does not solve a difficulty. Divided hearts do not solve difficulties. Only love is able to solve the difficulty. Love is celebration, love is joy, love is perseverance." Therefore, the highest expression of love involves compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. May God grant us the loving hearts we need to show mercy to others in our daily lives.