Thursday, December 24, 2015

Being the Key of Mercy

On December 8th, Pope Francis initiated the Year of Mercy, which, to my knowledge, everyone has favored and celebrated. I have not heard of nor seen anyone say that we don't need a year of mercy or that it is a stupid idea. By the same token though, I don't believe the Year of Mercy means the same thing to everyone nor is appreciated by everyone for all the same reasons. Some people think of it as a call to greater social justice. Some just want everyone to be nicer to each other. Some want to remind everyone of our need for God's mercy. And I think all of those are good and honorable reasons to embrace the Year of Mercy. But I think I've found the best one.

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” - Mother Teresa

Every single human being on the planet is created so as to desire love. Every single human being has a real need to be loved, as real a need as water or food. Studies have shown that children who do not receive this need are stunted in their mental, emotional, psychological and physical growth. It is no exaggeration to classify it as a need. But it is a spiritual need as well. Only by receiving love do we come to know God. It is through a child's experience of those around him or her that knowledge of God is gained. Is there warmth in the world? Will anyone meet my needs? If a child receives consistent affirmation of this, it is learned that there is goodness and love in the world. If a child doesn't, it is learned that the world is a hard place and he must excel to make it welcoming.

About 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. In 2014 there were 12 million single parent families. Many children grow up with parents on drugs, addicted to alcohol, struggling with mental illness, or who are neglectful or just simply not there. Millions and millions of people, through many and varying circumstances, do not learn from their earliest development that there is love in the world, unconditional love and they internalize that assuming that it is not something owed them but something they must earn and deserve. They assume that they are not worthy of it, or worse, are incapable of receiving it. Unlovable.

I believe, when Christ hung on the cross and lamented, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" he was experiencing that feeling of being alone, of being left, of being unloved by God and I can't help but wonder if it was the most painful moment in his agony, for to feel forsaken by God is to feel lost to all that is. Feelings for human beings can all to easily become beliefs and, indeed, for the very young when we are first experiencing reality, feelings are all we have to go by, and it is this feeling that can crack any solid foundation of a person, that can undermine any sense of self or purpose leaving only poverty, the poverty not only lacking in love but even the ability to receive love. The person can be left not only feeling unloved but believing themselves to be unworthy of love and even unlovable and that is the greatest poverty there is; that is the poverty Mother Teresa spoke about as the greatest disease today.

Some people would say the cure to this disease is simple, and it is, but that doesn't make it easy because if it was easy, it would have been cured already. How do you convince someone who believes they are unlovable that they are lovable? Rarely is there anything you can say that will do it. Words rarely can undo years of experience and even if you can "unlearn" what has been learned for such a long time and as such a integral part of one's complete outlook and mind frame, there will still be void that needs to be filled. The best way to convince someone they are wrong is not to tell them they are wrong nor even show them that they are wrong but to show them a better way. Don't just tell them that God loves them; show them. Don't just point them to the cross and tell them that Jesus died for them; be the cross and sacrifice yourself for them. It is through others that the love of God is revealed to us.

We need the Year of Mercy for many reasons but the greatest is that so many people do not love themselves, do not believe that God loves them or do not believe that they can receive God's love. Each and every one needs to be shown that they are wrong. Only then can they come to believe that the truths you want to share with them are truths for them.

People need to let God love them but most often that only happens when others have opened the doors for Him by being the key of mercy.

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