A Name Worth Thinking About
Last September, when I saw the name of the new on-line Newsletter of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia & PNG ‘just Mercy’– I liked it immediately. ‘just Mercy’ said to me ‘This is a newsletter just about mercy’: mercy as a value, mercy actions, mercy reflections, mercy people, mercy works and institutions, mercy initiatives, mercy advocacy.
It’s a way of sharing with each other and the wider community our passion for mercy and our belief in the power and strength of mercy to transform the violence and suffering in the world of our time.
As I reflected further, I found that ‘just Mercy’ also captures the quality that gives mercy its depth and resonance. It is mercy founded on justice. If we do not seek to accord people their just rights, then our mercy is hollow and pretentious. Unjust social structures and systems need to be addressed, if real mercy is to be experienced. Sisters of Mercy and their colleagues and associates have been educated to the need, not only for justice to be tempered by mercy, but for mercy to be underpinned by justice.
Being alive is an evolutionary experience. In the story of our evolution, it is possible to see how the quality of mercy has been folded into the nature of the human species. And in the Christian story, our understanding of the concept and practice of mercy has been nuanced and fine-tuned. The Gospel focus for our mercy is not just family and friends, but even enemies. Attending to the knowledge and signs of our times, we recognise an even greater challenge, as we awaken to the interconnectedness of all creation. ‘just Mercy’ is not reserved only for our own species, but is the right and longing of this life-giving planet. The human species now dominates the habitat of all other species of plant and animal life around the globe, as well as the planet’s life support systems. Human activity threatens to bring about another mass extinction of life on the planet – an extinction in which our own species could well be caught up.
It is ‘just Mercy’ that the planet longs for from us – a respect for and recognition of the rights of rivers and forests, oceans and reefs, orang-utans and elephants. These life forms have value in and of themselves, not just because they add value to human existence. All of creation groans and longs for a comprehensive compassion that embraces, not only our own species, but the whole planet of which we are an integral part. There is indeed much to ponder in this name ‘just Mercy’.
Patricia Powell rsm
Messages to: Patricia Powell