Mercy – notes on the Spirituality days in London 14-16th September
Today is the feast of St Matthew the evangelist and the reading has the message “I ask for mercy not sacrifice” and this is a fitting introduction to the days we shared together in London.
The first two days, Wednesday and Thursday were led by Jonathan Gorski , lecturer in Jewish Studies in Heythrop. Jonathan shared with us thoughts on the Word Mercy its meaning as understood within the writings and talks of Pope Francis. Francis draws his understanding of Mercy from the Latin word Misericordia, which he sees as a call to respond with our hearts, with the whole of our humanity not just our heads. He describes it as “opening our hearts to wretchedness.” Francis sees mercy as God’s identity card.
Jonathan shared with us his reading of Vatican 11 as a Jew and how much he rejoices in that council. He showed that the language of the Council changed to horizontal language, language of relationship using terms such as “brothers and sisters” and “people of God”, all reciprocity words. He showed how what Francis is saying in choosing the word Misericordia as his identity card is totally in keeping with the spirit of Vatican II. Pope John XXIII opened this council in1962 and spoke of the need for the “medicine of Mercy” as Jonathan pointed out these documents were written by people who had lived through the devastation of the Second World War and opened the doors of the Church to the World. This echo of mercy and openness is in all the documents. Mercy is part of our humanity and the essence of God. Cutting us off from mercy is a denial of our humanity. We spoke together of the balance needed between justice and mercy. Pope Francis shows us that this alters everything from our financial, political structures to the way we relate together.
Here are some quotes from Jonathan I want to repeat: “In dialogue the greatest capacity needed is to LISTEN”
“Matters of forgiveness are very complicated especially after catastrophe, we have to simply sit and listen and not tell people what to do.”
These challenges were deepened when we heard the personal story of Chris Lubbe on the Friday. Chris was a bodyguard of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. He simply told his story, an extraordinary story arising from the apartheid situation he was brought up in. It was too deep to be able to give you more than a taste so here are some of the quotes from Nelson Mandela he shared with us:
“Forgiveness is the key to freedom”
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
When he left prison: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind I’d still be in prison”
“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.”
He spoke of his work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and here are some quotes from that time:
“The Truth hurts but silence kills – let’s speak out to each other by telling the truth.
“Forgiveness is a journey”
“Forgiveness is about you – about you saying I’m doing this for me so that I can be free. Restoration requires repentance and it’s about others.”
Chris was a living witness to all that he was telling us and I would recommend that you contact him and invite him to share as I cannot do justice to the incredible personal story he shared with us. His web site is www.chrislubbe.co.uk.
Thank you to all who organised these deep and meaningful days for us.
sr. Teresa Brittain NDS