Introduction: Mercy and the Displacement of Persons
Elizabeth Davis rsm (Newfoundland)
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I was a stranger and you welcomed me — Matt 25: 35-36
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:35-36). These words from Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Matthew set the context for our reflections on Mercy and the Displacement of Persons, the third in our four-part series on “Mercy” in “Mercy Global Presence.”
Glimmers of Light from Last Month’s Reflection ~ Mercy and the Degradation of Earth
In the second part of our series on “Mercy,” we focused on Mercy and the Degradation of Earth. We noted that the degradation of Earth is well-described as a three-layered emergency: global climate change, approaching tipping points of ecosystems (Amazon, Arctic, Australia, and Antarctic), and the unprecedented threat of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction. The theologian, Carmody Grey, challenged us with her words: “The mission of the Church can no longer be separated from addressing ecological devastation. If the defacement of the poor is a defacement of God, in the same way a defacement of Earth is a defacement of God. . . From now on, caring for the environment has to be understood as being at the core of what mercy is, of what mercy asks us to do.”
The artist, Mary Bilderback rsm, in beautiful images and poetic words lamented even the language we use, “I am uneasy with the statement that Earth is degraded. . . She has been ‘Good’ for nearly 14 billion years, gracefully orbiting a benevolent star, open to whatever comes next. . . We are learning from birds and beasts, and presently an invisible virus, how to belong and behave here. . . Just maybe we will learn to live out the sacred song inside us — the same catchy tune that fills the violet and the tree frog with the will and un-degradable gift of being alive.” Gabrielle Scanlon rsm introduced us to the students at Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta who are so aware of the environment and the importance of maintaining it, respecting it, and allowing it to regenerate. She challenged them and us with her questions:
- Beautiful oceans, lakes and bays are struggling. They are suffocating. Who will speak for the environment if you don’t?
- The flora and fauna that God has so beautifully created are versatile and useful. But they are fragile and threatened. Who will speak for the environment if you don’t?
- How many precious resources can be removed from our Earth before we say enough is enough? Who will speak for the environment if you don’t?
Bridget Crisp rsm gave us profound new insights into the traditional expression of the corporal works of mercy. She enlarged our thinking about feeding the hungry to include food security, not only for humans, but for all living species; about giving drink to the thirsty to include water (now becoming so scarce) as a right for all living species. She reminded us that the fabrics of the very clothes we wear are made of micro-plastics which, when washed, can pollute the sea. She emphasized that housing is a human right, noting that is endangered even by urban sprawl. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of zoonotic diseases, visiting the sick takes on completely new meanings as does visiting the imprisoned when so many are jailed for their efforts for climate justice. How do we ritualize burying the dead in ways which are more responsive to the times in which we live? And our newest corporal and spiritual work of mercy, given us by Pope Francis, challenges us to find new ways to support planetary health.
Margie Abbott startled us with the introductory words to her presentation, “We are in Need of Respirators Urgently!” She introduced us to the moving video “Season of Creation: Storm” created by the Rahamim Ecological Centre in Bathurst, NSW, Australia. Adele Howard rsm prepared the reflective prayer which reminded us, “It is through these two aspects of living Mercy, the ‘practical-active’ and the ‘reflective-spiritual’ that we can make a committed and integrated response to healing the degradation of Earth and its creatures and, in so doing, heal our human community.”
Having just ended the week of celebrations for the fifth anniversary of Laudat Si’, we were conscious that, “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment so as to hear both the cry of Earth and the cry of the poor.” In writing these words, Pope Francis was echoing the theme of a book written by the liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor.
Mercy and Displacement of Persons
It is in this awareness that we move to our reflection on Mercy and the Displacement of Persons. Usually when we use the term “displaced persons,” we are thinking about globally displaced person: refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. However, our engagement in the Mercy International Reflection Process taught us that there are displaced persons in our local realities as well: homeless or precariously housed persons, persons with cognitive impairments, persons who are trafficked, persons subjected to domestic violence and elders moved to long term care facilities against their will. The one quality that they all have in common is their sense of belong nowhere...
Spanish translation using DeepL Translator. Traducción al español con DeepL Translator
Elizabeth Davis rsm is the Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland.
She is the Mercy Leaders' representive on the Mercy Global Presence Guiding Group.
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