By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.
This morning, I return to my high school (a proud 2003 graduate) to preach at the Queen of Peace Baccalaureate Mass. These are my notes.
We receive today again, just as the crowds did, one of the most extraordinary series of commandments ever given.
In the course of just a few minutes, Jesus makes several extraordinary claims:
To those who are poor: Jesus promises all of heaven.
To those who cry over the loss of loved ones, Jesus promises comfort.
To those who are weak, Jesus promises land.
To those who fight for justice, Jesus promises satisfaction.
The list goes on and on.
Yet, there is one of these commands – one of these Beatitudes as they are so called – that really stands out to me, exactly because it uses a word that we generally don’t hear used often, and when we do, it’s usually a sign of weakness, not one of strength. Nothing, however, could be further from the case.
The word is mercy – as in, “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Mercy is what being Christian is all about.
Mercy is getting involved in the chaos of the lives of others: we’ve all been taught to make plans, to always leave ourselves a Plan B. When we start following Jesus, however – we’re called to put our lives, our very selves on the line in the service of others. And this means doing it – all – the – time! To be merciful – to be a Christian, to be truly human – means to step outside of ourselves and seek out those who are most in need.
Mercy, in fact, flows from the life of Jesus. In Jesus, we find mercy itself: Jesus just doesn’t act in a merciful way now and again, but when hanging on the cross, Jesus becomes mercy itself.
The fact of the matter is that our calling – our task, duty, vocation, however you’d like to call it – is mercy.
The world has enough people who make significant amounts of money and donate it to charity. This is a good thing. The world, however, needs those who don’t keep ugliness and poverty at an arm’s length, it needs those who find others in need and gets into messes with them, walking with them even to the gates of hell and back. This is mercy.
The world has many who do well to those who are well to them. This is a good thing, but what we need are people who will forgive those who do terrible things, who treat others well not because they’ve earned it, but simply because they – just like you and me – are all made in the image and likeness of God. This is mercy.
The world has enough people who post messages of prayer and support for their “friends” on Facebook; but what we need are those who spend time with the sick in person, who provide support when a family member has died, who don’t just say “I know how you feel,” but be close enough to the sick to actually feel what they do! This is mercy.
The world has enough causes that disappear like a SnapChat picture: on our minds one second and gone the next. The world needs those who will devote their lives to a cause for justice, or peace, or charity.
The world has enough good people: what the world desperate needs are merciful people. It needs merciful Christians, to be exact.
All of us here are called to, upon seeing the needs of a broken and battered world, allow our hearts to be broken and battered with those most in need. We cannot afford to hold our noses at the sight of the dirty, the excluded, the depressed, the addicted, and the unforgivable. These people can’t afford it either. No: each of us are called, called by name today, to as we prepare to leave this school and go to other places, near and far, to carry with us the lessons of mercy learned at Queen of Peace and to share our hearts with those most in need.
Eleven years ago, I sat in the exact same place as you did, not having the slightest idea what the world had in store for me: I came to QP expecting to play second base for the Mets, I left thinking I would earn a law degree. Neither has come true – the first because I didn’t ever learn to hit a curveball, the second because God had other plans for me. Yet it my time here, I did receive the beginnings of an understanding of what mercy meant: I learned this from such wonderful examples Marie Sirois (the cookie lady), the late, great chemistry teacher John Koob, and the absolutely one-of-a-kind Sister Ann Jordan, CSJP. In eleven years, class of 2014, you will likely look back and consider similar examples: our lives are filled with those who pave the way ahead of us – it is on their shoulders that we rest. All of these examples – those here and those in some place far away, all knew what we know as well. We are all called to serve, no matter where we are, the truly merciful one: Jesus the Lord, who stands with you and for you today, sending you out to the Lord with challenging yet reassuring words: “Blessed are you, Class of 2014, now, go and show the world mercy.”