The Power of MercyJanuary 6th, 2016
Amidst the waves of unaccompanied migrant children desperately lunging towards our borders last year were the three Escalante children and their cousin. They were making an unfathomable 2,500 mile journey between their Guatemalan town and Greater Cincinnati to be reunited with family members already here.
Only fear for their lives would push this small group to make such a trek. They had received no mercy from the violence overrunning their home; no mercy from our broken immigration system that provides no legal path to come here; and no mercy from the coyote smuggler who abused the children in the desolate Arizona desert on the border.
Yet, when they did arrive, an outpouring of mercy awaited. It came from our Catholic Charities, providing for their immediate needs. It came from countless local Catholics and other people of faith who contributed financial and spiritual support to welcome them and other such desperate families. And, eventually, with advocacy from the community, it came from our immigration courts which granted them asylum.
“God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of his omnipotence” (Misericordia Vultus, no.6). These words of Pope Francis speak to a key component of mercy. Only those in positions of power over others are also in positions to grant mercy. With respect to our relationship with God, this is our joy and the source of our salvation! The One who has boundless power never tires of offering mercy to us sinners!
But the Escalante children had to confront so many earthly powers beyond their control: perpetrators of violence, coyotes, our immigration laws, and eventually those in the Archdiocese who would have the choice to welcome them or not. We still have a ways to go before we can influence the safety in Latin America or before we achieve the comprehensive immigration reform called for by the Catholic Church. Regardless, many good people here used whatever power they did have to respond however they could to this family’s cry for mercy.
Catholic Social Action is concerned with how our political, economic, and social structures use their fleeting power to promote the God-given life and dignity of every human person and all of creation. In this light, mercy serves to open the world to God’s justice, not just the understanding of justice exercised by the worldly powers that be.
The Church calls for greater mercy in our structures of power, especially during this Jubilee Year – mercy for the unborn; mercy for women in crisis pregnancies; mercy for those on death row; mercy for those facing religious persecution across the world, including the Syrian refugees fleeing a brutal dictator and merciless terrorists; mercy for those re-entering society from prison, looking for the right path; and mercy for the polluted Earth, “a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens our arms to embrace us” (Laudato Si’, no.1).
This Jubilee Year, please visit www.catholiccincinnati.org/socialaction to learn how to promote mercy for these and other concerns championed by our Church. May our witness of mercy together tell the world of Christ’s infinite power.
Tony Stieritz is the Director of the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action