By Kathleen M. Gallagher
A WISE PRIEST once told me that mercy is where love meets suffering. That’s a pretty profound definition. I’ve pondered it often, even meditated on it, but I’m not sure I really understood it until I recently saw a letter from Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.
Calvary is an acute care specialty hospital providing palliative care for advanced cancer patients. The hospital’s executive medical director sent a letter to lawmakers expressing opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide. In the letter, the medical director acknowledges that many patients being admitted to Calvary initially request a decisive action to end their lives.
But he says, within 24 hours, the request is never made again. Why? The reason, he says, is the immersion of the patients in a pool of love that makes all symptoms endurable.
Those words stopped me in my tracks. They enveloped my senses. I could feel the warmth and welcome of that love as it wraps around each individual person upon entering the hospital, accompanying them through every minute and every step of their suffering.
And that’s when I really understood what Pope Francis is talking about when he asks us to live a life of mercy during this Holy Year. This is precisely what we are called to do: immerse others in a pool of love. Meet people where they are. Express solidarity with those who are hurting. Open our hearts to offer compassion.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, disheartened, even frightened when we view the world as it’s presented on the nightly news.
But when we view it through the lens of our faith, the answers to vexing societal problems become readily apparent:
– How do we fight terrorism and persecution, both at home and abroad? With love.
– How do we forgive those who have committed horrible crimes? With love.
– How do we console the victims of gun violence? With love.
– How do we show charity to our neighbors living in poverty? With love.
– How do we demonstrate compassion to the dying patient? With love.
– How do we comfort those addicted to drugs? With love.
– How do we offer alternatives to abortion? With love.
Each one of us can contribute to making the world a more loving and merciful place. Mercy starts in the home, where families are called to be sources of mercy.
Some Notes to Self
So during this Christmas season of parties, dinners and family gatherings, here are my “Notes to Self,” which I offer as friendly suggestions for you:
– Have more patience with Grandma.
– Invite the nasty neighbor over for eggnog.
– Put down the cell phone and listen.
– Pray for my political adversaries.
– Forgive Uncle Bill.
– Stop criticizing.
– Seek pardon.
– Immerse the people around me in a pool of love.
Truly, mercy is where love meets suffering. The mercy of God is transformative. He is Mercy. He can transform pain and suffering into goodness and joy.
And He has come, Alleluia!
Gallagher is director of pro-life activities for the N.Y.S. Catholic Conference.