By Barb Arland-Fye
Since Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy to begin the first Sunday of Advent, my awareness of the word “mercy” in liturgy and prayer has grown. The incident of the forgotten socks brought home the message of mercy in a personal way last week.
On Oct. 1, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ message for The World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be observed Jan. 17, 2016. In that message the Holy Father refers to the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and the “Gospel of Mercy.”
As I read his message, I was struck by these words: “… At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. God’s love is meant to reach out to each and every person.”
The following night, after arriving home late from work, I curled up on the couch and peeled off my socks. On the floor where the socks landed was another pair of my socks, which I had forgotten to pick up the night before! My husband Steve, the object of 30 years of my lectures about socks on the floor, smiled. He could have lectured me but chose instead to engage in lighthearted teasing. We ended up laughing over the incident but later, reflecting on the day, I realized that Steve had demonstrated mercy.
How many times has he demonstrated mercy toward me in some small way throughout the three decades of our marriage? What is my track record demonstrating mercy toward Steve, our sons, and other people whose paths I cross? The previous week, my son Colin got sick in the church pew five minutes before the start of Mass.
Embarrassed, I rushed to the church kitchen for cleaning supplies, more resentful than concerned about Colin. Getting sick to his stomach is one manifestation of the anxiety that stokes his autism. Madelyn, a friend from church, responded immediately and helped Steve and me clean up the mess. She clearly gets the message that God’s love is meant to reach out to each and every person. I believe God places people like Madelyn in my life to provide encouragement in my journey to grow as a Catholic.
In his own way Colin gets the message of mercy, forgiving me and others in our family for our shortcomings and impatience toward him. He occasionally recognizes his need to receive the mercy of others for his shortcomings, apologizing for sins committed days ago. Joining us at Mass this past weekend, Colin promised — within earshot of everyone in the vestibule — that he would not pester a certain young woman he went to school with and that he wouldn’t throw up. Following through with those promises during Mass required the patience of everyone. Mercy is certainly hard work, and I am striving to appreciate Colin’s efforts.
Mercy extends to my interaction toward others at work, in the car, while exercising, shopping or running errands. Other drivers have shown mercy in traffic, allowing me to slip into the queue when a lane was closed off. I need to remember to do the same, at the next opportunity.
Pope Francis’ message pertained to mercy toward migrants and refugees, and they have been on my mind as well. But his message applies to all of us and serves as a reminder that mercy begins at home, starting with a pair of socks.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)