For the past few months, I have been mulling over the word “mercy” quite a bit. Perhaps this comes from a combination of Pope Francis’ persistent call to act with mercy, Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, and Marvin Gaye’s timeless song, Mercy, Mercy, Me that has been humming in my mind. I think we can agree that our world, our country, and our campus could use some mercy. If we consider mercy as being “kind and gentle treatment of someone having no right to it” or “kindness shown to victims of misfortune”, I believe that mercy becomes a choice to act beyond self-interest and likely beyond our comfort zones. Mercy is not an act that dismisses harm or pain, rather, mercy is like a countercultural balm that fully acknowledges the wounds and aids in the healing and transformation of others and ourselves. What difference would it make if we could be more merciful with ourselves and with others?
Bryan Stevenson writes, “Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.” Yikes! That may not be a very appealing or popular proposition, but I do believe that it is something to wrestle with and consider in our approach to the conflict and tensions we witness and experience on a daily basis.
My musings on mercy have been present to me in my practice of the Examen, an Ignatian approach to review one’s day and discern the invitations for future response and action. This past July, a group of colleagues across campus offered an adapted form of Examen to reflect on the ongoing violence in our country and world. We will again offer this adapted Examen to the campus community on October 26, 4-5:30 p.m. in the California Mission Room. Our intention is to create a space to review and reflect on events of violence near and far, and to consider the invitations for personal and communal engagement. We look forward to the shared participation of students, faculty, staff, and administrators.