Mercy in My Hometown

July 14, 2016

*** This post was originally posted on Thursday, July 14, 2016.  Little did I know the depth of mercy that my hometown needed the afternoon I wrote this post.   This morning, July 17th, we woke up to news of 6 police officers being shot in Baton Rouge, with three confirmed dead.  This news is devasting and heartbreaking.   The shooting happened at a carwash I used more times than I can count.  The carwash backs up to the neighborhood I grew up in and in an area of town that I know like the back of my hand.

I do not understand the senseless shooting that happened in my hometown today, but I do know this- that we are in need of God’s mercy right now- in my hometown, in our state, in our country, and in our world.  Join me in praying for the three police officers who lost their lives today Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola.  Let us pray for them and their families by name. Let us pray for Nicholas Tullier who is still in surgery and fighting for his life.

The words I wrote Thursday are relevant still.  Fervent prayers are necessary.   Both for the suffering of our brothers and sisters AND prayer for how we are called to act to help bring about peace and healing.

 

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ORIGINAL POST Written July 14, 2016

We live in Baton Rouge.   It’s our home.  The place I grew up, and moved our family back to last year.  Almost a year ago, our address was Dallas, TX.  This past week, two places we called home were in the news.  Baton Rouge for the death of Alton Sterling who was killed by police officers during his arrest.  Dallas for the five policemen who were shot to death during a protest.  My heart aches and my brain hurts as I try to sort out and make sense of all that is happening in two places I lived.

We need God’s mercy here.  I know it’s not only in my hometown or in Dallas, but our world needs God’s mercy.

I battled the nudge to sit down and write for days.  Feeling the doubt and resistance as to what to say, yet knowing that writing helps clarify things for me at the same time.  So I am sitting down finally this afternoon, within the moments of our youngest daughter’s nap, to put words to my thoughts.  I do not seek to be political here, by any means, but I seek to compose some thoughts in regards to the year we, as a Catholic church, are living- The Year of Mercy.

Opening One’s Heart:

Pope Francis’ definition of mercy as shared with an Italian journalist in the book The Name of God Is Mercy keeps gnawing at me:  “opening one’s heart to wretchedness” (p. 8).

The events that occurred in the last 10 days are doing just that for me- opening my heart to the brokenness in our world.  My heart aches with hurt for Alton Sterling’s family, yet at the same time my heart opens for the two police officers and their families who are dealing with what it means to be involved in taking a man’s life.  My heart hurts from the loss of life of five police officers in Dallas and the fear that ensued as shots were fired into the large crowd. My heart also seeks for the voices of the Black Lives Matter protests to be heard and understood, and at the same time, I hate the fear that rises within me as the protests at times are tense in the evenings Baton Rouge.

It feels like too much for me to process, to make sense of, to figure out.  I yearn to act, but feel no action I take will make a difference or change the brokenness around us.  I feel like we are living in this world that is demanding a stance of either/or, when my heart and every inch of my being is screaming both/and.

God Can Do the Impossible:

But what I am clinging to hard and heavy right now is this.  God CAN and is opening his heart to all of the brokenness.  God sees it ALL.  God is listening and hearing ALL of our prayers.  God in his infinite goodness is tending to each person individually in their own pain and hurt and helping carry the burdens each may feel.  God is holding the tension of opposing sides and views.  God is with each of us in this moment we are living.

Because the reality is, God loves bigger than we can imagine and in places we cannot imagine.

And, God always opens another way, a different path that we cannot see.  That’s what God’s mercy is about– doing the impossible, healing what seems irreparable, forgiving what seems unforgivable, mending what seems broken beyond repair.

That’s what our Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church is celebrating this year.  The beautiful gift of God’s mercy.  Mercy that is given to each of us freely and without earning it.  And this is what is giving me hope right now.  That God is working within all of our brokenness to do the impossible.

And we have a very important role to play in doing the impossible.  This gift of mercy is not just for us to feel warm and fuzzy and know that we are heard in prayer and that God is with each of us in this moment.  No!  We are called, urged to be part of putting mercy in motion.  We act out of the very gift of mercy we were given by God.

What does this mean we CAN do? 

We can pray.  Pray for those who are hurt and suffering this week.  We can pray for them by name, and ask for God to comfort them in their suffering.

But we also must pray for how we are called to act.  We can go to God and ask for clarity in what we are being invited to do to help put mercy in action and to be messengers of hope.  Maybe its something that feels so small and trivial.  Or maybe its something that feels so big that it feels impossible to take the first step.  No matter what God’s call for us might be, when we have clarity we CAN act.

That’s how God does the impossible anyway.  God hears prayers.  God raises desires in people’s hearts to do something.   People hear these desires within them.  God gives people the gifts, the means, and the opportunities to act.  And then, people have the courage to act.

The impossible happens through God working through us.  So will you join me?

  • In prayer for all who are suffering in light of the last few weeks events in our nation
  • In praying for a deepened awareness of the brokenness in our world so that our hearts may be opened to it as God’s is to our own.
  • In boldly asking God what we are each being invited to do to make the impossible happen
  • In acting when we know our steps of action

 

 

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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1 Comment

  1. Peggy

    Becky, I felt that your feelings pretty much mirrored my own regarding these events.

    People are so closed off, so divided, I am not sure that many can see the intervention of God in any form.

    I try to remember first that we are all Americans, united in ways we can’t change. There are not two sides, not a “we” and a “they.”

    God needs to love big because right now a lot of folks are feeling and acting pretty unlovable.

    My little prayer is always to see God’s presence in my day to day. Small things, interactions – I try not to miss a thing. I will work from there. Thank you for making feel that my feelings are normal!

    Reply

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