Introduction: New Foundations in Mercy
Elizabeth Davis rsm (Newfoundland)

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“Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it” . —(Jer 6:16)

With these words of God in the book of Jeremiah, we begin our fourth month’s reflection in segment two of Mercy Global Presence. Before we focus on this month’s theme, to give us energy and to serve as a catalyst to our moving forward, we remember key voices from last month’s reflection, Mercy and the Displacement of Persons.

Gratitude for Voices from Mercy and the Displacement of Persons

We noted that displaced persons are a diverse group both within and outside our countries. They include refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, homeless or precariously housed persons, those with cognitive impairments, those who are trafficked for sex or labour, persons subjected to domestic violence, and elders in long term care facilities. The stark sculpture by Timothy P. Schmalz of the homeless Christ huddled on a park bench made the reality more real to us. So, too, did the touching painting of a young Australian Aboriginal boy by Margaret Smith rsm entitled Reclaiming Place: Continuing the Story. His is a culture in which every living thing is family, all of the earth is sacred and everything is connected. Margaret Hinchey rsm led us in a poignant theological reflection on Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matt 15:21-28. She says, “This story sets forth who Jesus is as the Christ, the anointed one who reveals in painful human interactions what God is like. And that awareness and transformation in the very human Jesus came as a result of the actions of one of the poorest of the poor, the outcast, the ‘other’. Through this profound encounter, both Jesus and she were liberated.”

Malia Fetuli rsm began her powerful slide presentation with the words of a very well-known Maori (Indigenous people of New Zealand) Proverb: “Maku e ki atu, he aha te mea nui o te ao? He Tangata, he Tangata, he Tangata./You ask, what is the most important thing in the world? It is People, it is People, it is people.” Carmen Rosa Callomamani rsm spoke about the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on already traumatized migrant peoples, “What a paradox life is.  They (our migrant brothers and sisters) left fleeing hunger and misery, and now a virus, miniscule in size, has the capacity to paralyze the entire world; questioning all of the comforts of a minority of the world’s population that has believed it had the power to possess life.” Sheila Curran rsm continued that theme as she set the context for the reflective prayer, “In the midst of this dramatic situation of COVID-19, which has “displaced” so much in our lives and in our world, we may have difficulty seeing, feeling and hearing the effects of this resurrection.  This context reminds us of something we already know and which we too often forget – that it is the crucified one who is the risen one. The word of God comes to aid our fragile memory.” Accompanying her words was a moving painting entitled The Future is in Our Hands by the Syrian artist, Joel Bergner.

Margie Taylor rsm read for us a heart-breaking poem of the pain, suffering and resilience of a woman who had been trafficked for sex since she was a young child. The last verse of the poem reads:

chapter 6:

i have hopes of a new story being born
with prevention, protection, and prosecution at its core
and with jubilation i will shout
I’M NOT FOR SALE ANYMORE!
the body holds the story

Among the rich treasures of readings, poetry, music and art in Good Reading is a modern painting of the Pietà by Vyacheslav Okun sj entitled This is "Good Friday 2020". One of his contemporaries describes the painting, “In this Pietà, Mary's suffering over the destroyed body of Christ after he is taken off the cross is reimagined and substituted as the suffering and grief of healthcare workers in the midst of the current global coronavirus pandemic.”'

New Foundations in Mercy: Energy to Respond

While we are now in “Ordinary Time” in the Church’s liturgical year, our spirits echo with the resurrection stories from Eastertime. In the story of Mary and Cleopas on the road to and from Emmaus, we read, “They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’” (Lk 24:32). We treasure the meaning of the Sanskrit word for “mercy” – daaya – in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh traditions, “suffering in the suffering of all beings.” The Jesuit James Keenan, sj echoes this sense, “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of others.” With hearts burning within us, growing in an understanding of mercy as suffering in the suffering of all beings and dating to answer Mercy’s call to enter into the chaos of others, we hear with new ears the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ (#141):   

We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.

We desperately need the energy embedded in these inspiring words to give us the wisdom and the courage to respond with new foundations in this troubling and tumultuous time...

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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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