Monday, April 11, 2011

Mercy in the Real

Lately I'm learning lessons about mercy in unexpected places, with people I thought had lost hope, and in situations I never thought I'd be in. Handing over my daughter to a surgeon--however talented he may be--was one such mercy; the nurses, doctors, and people who surrounded us helped me understand that while we wrung our hearts out, there were many parents and children who felt helpless surrounding us, but would make it through. I heard next door to our room the constant rocking of an old chair, a parent relentlessly trying to sooth a little one who suffered as well; I would see in the faces of the children who rode along in their radio flyer wagons a sense of hope, some fear, some pain. Maybe a sense gratitude in what was now possible.

More recently this sense of mercy came to a head with the death of a cousin who long suffered in life--he'd experienced every imaginable sort of tragedy, suffered especially physically, and to some might have seemed the embodiment of Job himself. I touched base with another cousin of mine who'd become close friends with him, and he revealed that he'd gone with his wife to visit this suffering cousin, and just hang out--no more, no less. During that time they shared their ups and downs, and my cousin, who'd had some of his own serious doubts in faith, came to learn through his long-suffering friend that you shouldn't spend your life complaining about what you don't have, but appreciating what you do have, using it to the hilt, loving it. Accepting what's good and bad in your life, making something of either. In spite of his long-suffering, he was able to see what he did have: a beautiful daughter, devoted friends and family, the simple things of life. He absolutely dealt with the dark night of the soul, as they say, but he did not forget the boon of his life.

Listening to him, I recalled my Sunday school lessons about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy--listed like they are here below, these seem letter-of-the-law-ish, but really, they're just common sense.

The traditional enumeration of the corporal works of mercy is as follows:
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy are:
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.
(from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online)

These are about just living--in both senses of the word *just*--and while I have aimed all my life to fulfill these, in the end, I think it's not just about duty. This humane sense of God's will for us is a way to simply live, and live faithfully, in honor of the gift of life we're given. We may not be paragons of saintliness, but I think saints come in all shapes and sizes.

Faith--just faith--is about trust. It's about surrendering to trust all will be well. It's about fighting the good fight--giving what you can in return. It's about using whatever we do have to help others. It's about considering your moment--your sense of self, right now, and working on transforming your soul by opening your eyes to the real.

God rest your soul, Tony--and thanks for the lesson of your living.

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