I would like to use the occasion of this day to focus on some of the broader aspects of mercy, for though forgiveness of sin is truly a manifestation of God's great mercy it is only one aspect of it, though indeed an important one.
You will notice that the image I have chosen for this article has the Greek words Kyrie Eleison which means Lord, have mercy. Recently I discovered that the imperative verb eleison is derived from the word elios which means oil, especially olive oil. To have mercy then is to pour oil on troubled situations to smooth our the friction. To ask the Lord top have mercy on us is not only to ask forgiveness of our sins but to smooth over the pain and hurt in our life and in society.
Cardinal Walter Kasper who is very close to Pope Francis has written a book on mercy. In it he says that mercy is part of God's very nature. He points out that over the years we have treated mercy as an attribute of God rather than as an aspect of God's very essence. I think that an observation of nature manifest this very quality of the Creator. Have you ever noticed the forest turning green rather quickly after a forest fire, or land ravaged by a storm or a flood naturally restoring itself. To me this reflects God's way of acting. Things will break and get destroyed, but they will always renew. We humans, when things break down, tend to get caught in fear that it will always be that way. The Paschal Mystery of the Lord's Death and Resurrection teaches us that God's way is bringing new life from old even when we don't see it coming.
Like many of you I have been quite distressed by the recent spate of incidents between African Americans and the police. Depending on the incident I have seen fault on both sides. How can mercy be applied to these situations. First of all instead of immediately looking for someone to blame we should ask, "What's the deeper problem?" Also, "What is the truth?" It seems to me that many on both sides really didn't want the truth. They just wanted what put them in a better light. It is obvious that there is a lack of trust on both sides--not necessarily with everyone, but widespread nonetheless. Might we pray for guidance ask ask God in His mercy to show us the way through this impasse, to pour His healing oil over the situation. This doesn't mean that some people might need to go to jail, but it moves beyond simply finding out who to punish and seeks to avoid the problem in the future.
This same approach might apply to any number of conflict situations in our own lives,m in our families and in society. Pray for wisdom, pray to face the truth even if it is unpleasant. Ask for mercy to find the way from darkness to light. Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy.