Every year in our parish we host a week of summer faith formation classes for our middle school and high school students. This year’s theme is Mercy. With our classes taking place in the upcoming week as I sit down to write this blog, I am reminded of a children’s book I read to my own children many years ago. It’s a story about a boy named Pierre and how he just didn’t care about anything or anyone other than himself. In the story, by beloved author Maurice Sendak, Pierre learns that in order to be truly human, truly alive, and truly happy, one must turn their gaze outward to others. I borrow from a pope other than Francis this week with the following wise words:
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ― Pope John Paul II
This week, our young people will be given a working definition of mercy and one of the first things they will learn is that “the opposite of mercy is indifference.” How easy it is, for you and for me, to respond to hurt by closing our hearts, mainly in the hopes of avoiding further pain or anguish. That’s a survival tactic, isn’t it? As Easter people, as people of hope, we are challenged to love even when loving is not easy, to give of ourselves even when we feel as if we have nothing left inside to give. While this is counterintuitive to everything we hear in the media, we are to forgive “seventy times seven times.” (Matthew 18: 22)
“Real peace is not just a matter of structures and mechanisms. It rests above all on the adoption of a style of human coexistence marked by mutual acceptance and a capacity to forgive from the heart. We all need to be forgiven by others, so we must all be ready to forgive. Asking and granting forgiveness is something profoundly worthy of every one of us,” ― Pope John Paul II
So, this week, our young people will learn all the nuts and bolts about mercy but more importantly, we hope to reach their hearts as well as their heads. We have all been hurt and forgiven, we all have hurt others and have asked for forgiveness. We all have been saved by our loving God’s mercy daily. We must keep our hearts open. That’s when love and peace can happen fully, really, and truly.