Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mercy: principle and works

Last week the clergy of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán had a retreat with the theme of mercy, preach by Father Antonio Rivero, LC. There was a lot of information and I felt overwhelmed by the torrent of words on mercy. Thanks be to God I had the chance one night to visit the sick.

At the instigation of Padre German Navarro, whom I work with, I began reading Jon Sobrino’s El Principio – Misericordia, which I had read in English in 1994.

It is slow reading but I also came across an essay of Jon Sobrino, SJ, (in Christine Bochen’s  The Way of Mercy, p..65-66 )where he notes:
Mercy is a basic attitude toward the suffering of another, whereby one reacts to eradicate that suffering for the sole reason that it exists, and in the conviction that, in this reaction to the ought-not-be of another’s suffering, one’s own being, without any possibility of subterfuge, hangs in the balance. 

But mercy is more than the works of mercy. Note again the words of Jon Sobrino (p, 74): 
When mercy is taken seriously as the first and the last, it becomes conflictive. No one is thrown in prison or persecuted simply for having practiced works of mercy. Not even Jesus would have been persecuted and put to death, had his mercy been mere mercy— without being mercy as the first and the last. But when mercy becomes the first and the last, then it subverts society’s ultimate values, and society reacts.
I think of this as I recall the death of two indigenous activists this month in Intibucá - Berta Cáceres and Nelson García. 

But the past few days I have had two occasions to practice the corporal works of mercy.

When I got back from the retreat on Friday, I was approached by the mayor of Concepción to see if I could house the leaders of the medical brigade which was seeing people in our municipality, Concepción.

The two leaders stayed with me. I helped translate on Saturday and Monday when the brigade was in the nearby Candelaria clinic.

The lines early on Monday at the Candelaria clinic
This was an amazing experience – hearing the people explain their ills and watching the doctors respond carefully and respectfully to their needs. I noted a deep concern for the doctors for several seriously ill persons. But mostly I heard a lot of concern for gastritis and blood-pressure (low and high) and saw a number of people being nebulized for asthma. The brigade examined more than 200 in Quebraditas on Friday, more than 300 in Candelaria on Friday, and probably between 400 and 500 on Monday. (I had to leave before they were finished.)

I also was called on to speak with a man who was in deep anguish – or was it trauma? A son had been brutally murdered a few months ago and he is still grieving. We talked for a while and I promised to visit him during Holy Week.

On Monday, after translating for most of the day, I headed to Gracias where I assisted Sister Pat Farrell in working with several persons in the Gracias jail to prepare for a May workshop on Alternatives to Violence. These people had participated in two previous training sessions; we are helping them prepare to be co-leaders of future workshops in prison.

What impressed me this time was the sense of initiative of the two men in prison as well as the sharing of one of them on his former life. I feel blessed to have been a part of this process.

I returned to Plan Grande on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday I spent almost the whole day preparing the parish Stations of the Cross which we celebrated on Friday. I had to finish them so that I could get photocopies in Santa Rosa on Thursday.

And so I have been blessed with the chance to shelter the two leaders of the medical brigade, visit the sick and listen to the sick visiting the doctors, comfort the afflicted, and more.

But more than anything else I feel myself sheltered in mercy – by all the people who surround me and help me try to be merciful.

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