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In a recent South African trial, a frail black woman faces Mr. van der Broek, who has been found guilty of murdering her son and her husband.  The son he had shot at point-blank range and burned the body while he and his officers partied.  Several years later, he and “security police” colleagues returned and, in her presence, doused the husband with gasoline and set him aflame.        In the courtroom Mr. Van der Broek has just confessed as much. A member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks, "So, what do you want?  How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"     The woman: "My husband and son were my only family. I want, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like him to spend a day with me twice a month so that I can pour out on him the love I still have. And I would ask someone to lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. van der Broek in my arms and let him know that he is truly forgiven."      As assistants lead the woman across the room, friends and neighbors in the courtroom begin singing softly, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."  Mr. van der Broek, overwhelmed, hears none of it; he has fainted.      Was justice done that day?  Probably not.  But mercy won out in a big way. She chose restraint. She chose to forego revenge.  She was a healer.  She did what the Good Shepherd does.  The compassionate shepherd became the predominant image for Jesus in the earliest centuries of the Christian faith.  The Jesus-experience was an encounter with divine mercy. It was having a heart.  Centuries later, Sacred Heart devotion replaces some of the Good Shepherd mystique.     In both cases, putting on mercy is how a Christian dresses fashionably!  In Colossians, Paul says “clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy."  You can learn about it by reading the Bible, but only behavioral change gives it traction.  The “works of mercy” call for engagement.  Healing follows, so do miracles.  The question then: Is my life one that heals?      Luke’s gospel is a “Gospel of Mercy” showing Jesus open to all—Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, foreigners, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, poor, outcasts.   He alone records stories of the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief—all people in need of God’s mercy.  The message: Sensitivity to others and to God go hand in hand. “Be merciful as our Father is merciful.”   So, keep score no more and “love your enemies.”   Are you serious?      “It ain’t over till it’s over!”  Well, with Jesus it’s never over.  There’s always the chance of a new life.  His compassion index goes off the charts.  Jesus renewed people with a largesse that had repercussions.  He was in the mercy business, not the judgment business.  As his followers, mercy and compassion become part of our DNA; that is, if discipleship means anything.      The Rule of Benedict fingers the abbot as a good shepherd, willing to leave the 99 in search of the lost.  In his exhorting or reprimanding, he is always to realize that anyone can change.  He is to write off no one.  He is told “mercy must take precedence over judgment” (ch.64).  Why?  Because he will have to render accounts for his actions.  Mercy is also the last of the “tools of good works” (ch.4):  “Never despair of the mercy of God.”      Mercy makes possible community living. One of the drawbacks of social media, unfortunately, is that relationship skills with real people in real time can be impeded.  It is all too easy to become a compassionless relational nomad.       To up our mercy IQ, we need fluency in the “language” of tenderness and compassion, gentleness and empathy.  (When was the last time I cried at a movie?)  There is no greeting card for mercy; a “Good Shepherd series” might be a good start!      In 2014, our country celebrated the 50 th  anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  One could get the impression that the entire civil rights movement took place in three days!  Or, some have the impression that terrorism began with 9/11.  Yet blacks in this country have dealt with terrorism for centuries—slavery, beatings, lynching, “back-of-the-bus” to mention four ways they’ve faced it.      To actively show mercy and compassion to those around us is what we are called to do; whoever we are and whatever our station is in life. Small acts of mercy can be powerful: decline to join in gossip against a neighbor, smile and greet a co-worker with whom you have a conflict, listen to someone who has been hurt. While on the Cross Jesus showed us what true mercy is. May our strongest desire and hope be that of having such a merciful and compassionate heart. Continuing our walk as community will help us in this work.      In any case, let us get ready for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis has decreed will begin December 8, 2015.

Mercy

by Fr. Valerian Odermann, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
In a recent South African trial, a frail black woman faces Mr. van der Broek, who has been found guilty of murdering her son and her husband.  The son he had shot at point-blank range and burned the body while he and his officers partied.  Several years later, he and “security police” colleagues returned and, in her presence, doused the husband with gasoline and set him aflame.        In the courtroom Mr. Van der Broek has just confessed as much. A member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks, "So, what do you want?  How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"     The woman: "My husband and son were my only family. I want, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like him to spend a day with me twice a month so that I can pour out on him the love I still have. And I would ask someone to lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. van der Broek in my arms and let him know that he is truly forgiven."      As assistants lead the woman across the room, friends and neighbors in the courtroom begin singing softly, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."  Mr. van der Broek, overwhelmed, hears none of it; he has fainted.      Was justice done that day?  Probably not.  But mercy won out in a big way. She chose restraint. She chose to forego revenge.  She was a healer.  She did what the Good Shepherd does.  The compassionate shepherd became the predominant image for Jesus in the earliest centuries of the Christian faith.  The Jesus-experience was an encounter with divine mercy. It was having a heart.  Centuries later, Sacred Heart devotion replaces some of the Good Shepherd mystique.     In both cases, putting on mercy is how a Christian dresses fashionably!  In Colossians, Paul says “clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy."  You can learn about it by reading the Bible, but only behavioral change gives it traction.  The “works of mercy” call for engagement.  Healing follows, so do miracles.  The question then: Is my life one that heals?      Luke’s gospel is a “Gospel of Mercy” showing Jesus open to all—Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, foreigners, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, poor, outcasts.   He alone records stories of the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief—all people in need of God’s mercy.  The message: Sensitivity to others and to God go hand in hand. “Be merciful as our Father is merciful.”   So, keep score no more and “love your enemies.”   Are you serious?      “It ain’t over till it’s over!”  Well, with Jesus it’s never over.  There’s always the chance of a new life.  His compassion index goes off the charts.  Jesus renewed people with a largesse that had repercussions.  He was in the mercy business, not the judgment business.  As his followers, mercy and compassion become part of our DNA; that is, if discipleship means anything.      The Rule of Benedict fingers the abbot as a good shepherd, willing to leave the 99 in search of the lost.  In his exhorting or reprimanding, he is always to realize that anyone can change.  He is to write off no one.  He is told mercy must take precedence over judgment” (ch.64).  Why?  Because he will have to render accounts for his actions.  Mercy is also the last of the “tools of good works” (ch.4):  “Never despair of the mercy of God.”      Mercy makes possible community living. One of the drawbacks of social media, unfortunately, is that relationship skills with real people in real time can be impeded.  It is all too easy to become a compassionless relational nomad.       To up our mercy IQ, we need fluency in the “language” of tenderness and compassion, gentleness and empathy.  (When was the last time I cried at a movie?)  There is no greeting card for mercy; a “Good Shepherd series” might be a good start!      In 2014, our country celebrated the 50 th  anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  One could get the impression that the entire civil rights movement took place in three days!  Or, some have the impression that terrorism began with 9/11.  Yet blacks in this country have dealt with terrorism for centuries—slavery, beatings, lynching, “back-of-the-bus” to mention four ways they’ve faced it.      To actively show mercy and compassion to those around us is what we are called to do; whoever we are and whatever our station is in life. Small acts of mercy can be powerful: decline to join in gossip against a neighbor, smile and greet a co-worker with whom you have a conflict, listen to someone who has been hurt. While on the Cross Jesus showed us what true mercy is. May our strongest desire and hope be that of having such a merciful and compassionate heart. Continuing our walk as community will help us in this work.      In any case, let us get ready for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis has decreed will begin December 8, 2015.

Mercy

by Fr. Valerian Odermann, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601