Vol. 167 No. 34 - August 20 - August 26, 2016
The theme for Justice Sunday this year, namely, 'Justice and Mercy' makes me recall the simulation game titled 'Truth, Justice, Mercy and Peace' borrowed from Caritas' Peace building handbook. Volunteers do not have difficulty to personify Justice, Truth or Peace, but for Mercy, this is often a predicament. Giving this a deeper thought, Mercy may be something we are uncomfortable with, or our concept and understanding of Mercy could be very narrow and limited.
Mercy can take on various hues, so let us try and look at what Mercy means to each of us. Mercy with no strings attached: Sometimes we show mercy towards someone and expect lifelong obligation. Is that truly mercy or a form of bondage? Surely, there is no justice in this type of mercy. Do we show mercy only to people whom we know or only towards someone who has hurt one personally? Last year, many churches were attacked/desecrated in Delhi and across the country. What were our feelings towards these perpetrators of violence? While we may never have met them or known who was responsible, could we have shown mercy towards them? Does Mercy oppose Justice? No, it does not. Instead, it expresses God's way of reaching out to a sinner or someone who has been unjust, thus offering a new chance to see themselves for what they are, repent, convert and strengthen their faith, as we can note from this beautiful example:-
In 1995, the killer of Sr Rani Maria - Samandar Singh - shot her several times, until she succumbed. Behind prison walls, he began plotting how he could take revenge against the man who pushed him to kill the nun. But he also received a visit from another nun, Sr Selmi Paul, who happened to be the murdered nun's own sister. She hugged him, tied a rakhee and called him brother. He was so profoundly touched by this gesture, that his journey of repentance began. He gave up plans for revenge and accepted the sorrow caused by the murder. Eventually, Samandar was released after 11 years in prison, because of a petition signed by Sr Rani's family, the Provincial of the Clarist congregation and the Bishop of Indore. During this time, his wife divorced him, and his eldest son died. Sr Rani's assassin repented, and has become a member of her family. "In my own small way," he said, "I try to follow her example, and help those who are less fortunate than me, like tribal Christians and all those who are marginalised." "I regularly visit her tomb," he said. "For me, it is like a sanctuary of peace and strength." The act of mercy did not only transform his life, but prevented the seeds of hatred and revenge from taking root.
Mercy is closely associated with relationships – not merely relationships, but 'Right or Just Relationships'. My relationship with God – do I have a connection? When do I connect? How do I connect? Do I connect only to ask for favours? My relationship with myself - am I at peace with myself? Do I accept myself with my limitations and strengths? Am I too self-critical? My relationship with my immediate family – Examine closely. Can I state with pride that my relationships are based on unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and mercy? Do I have selective relationships based on false myths/biases: for example, stay away from the Hindu/Muslim family residing in the neighbourhood or forbid my child to play with them?
Pope Francis in his bull Misericordiae Vultus invites us to experience the opening of our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice, because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, he calls us as Church to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. He says, "Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! May we reach out to them and support them, so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity."
The idea of justice and mercy is not limited to human beings alone, but extends to all God's creatures.
Pamela Fernandes, Justice and Peace Commission, Mumbai.
Imagine yourself driving down a two-lane highway. You are in the right lane, and for a while, the traffic in both lanes moves at a reasonable pace. Then gradually, the left lane keeps slowing down, and you start to hear angry comments from those in that lane. Finally, the left lane comes to a grinding halt. At first, there are shouts and abuses, but finally the drivers in the left lane start aggressively trying to cut into the right lane, giving rise to total chaos, crashes, violence and stoppage of all traffic. "Road rage"? Well, Nobel laureate economist Josef Stiglitz gives this as a parable for what he calls "inequality rage". What eventually happens when the chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots" keeps growing; when "the national traffic" is not moving in line with their needs and aspirations. History is replete with the resultant upheavals in numerous countries: the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Red October Uprising and Mao's Long March, to name just a few.
Climate change, nuclear weapons, terrorism, malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis—these are all threats to our nation. But there are two which should be rated as the gravest and most dire threats faced by our country. Poverty kills and continually hurts hundreds of millions of us. And then comes increasing unemployment. Add to this, the rapidly increasing automation of industry using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the spectre of mass unemployment looms threateningly in the near future. What is the reason for well-off land-holding sections of society—Jats in Haryana,
While accepting the award which was presented to him by the Bradley Foundation in Washington D.C. in June 2016, Rabbi Jonathan Sachs asserted that a free society is a moral achievement. The way he described it is that we mistakenly believe that freedom is the default option in politics, that it just happens, that it's the norm, not a rare exception, that it delivers rights without responsibilities, and that once won, it lasts forever. These are all mistaken beliefs, according to him, and doubly dangerous now that the threat to freedom is greater than at any other time in (my) lifetime.
This gives us reason to pause and re-assess our notions of freedom and to critically examine the culture of death in which we are presently entrapped. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the entire cultural milieu in which we live today is toxic and deathly. The human person has lost her value and has become a mere commodity in the social, economic and political spheres. People have begun to feel comfortable with the idea that killing babies in their mothers' wombs is okay. In fact, there is a thriving market in which foetal organs are sold by many so-called Family Planning Clinics which dismember babies, even while they are still alive, so that their organs may be sold to research centres for experimentation..
Massive plantation drives by states over the past decade have not translated into any significant increase in India's green cover, an analysis of government data shows, raising concerns over the efficacy of money-guzzling schemes.
HT's findings will also put a question mark over the government's move to distribute Rs 41,000 crore to the states for plantation and regeneration of forests.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests claims to have carried out plantation on 19.64 million hectares (ha) under various government schemes between 2003 and 2014. But the corresponding increase in forest cover was only 2.4 million ha, which includes private plantations, leaving a hole of 17 million ha. In most states, the green cover growth was less than the claimed plantation area. India is looking at plantations to meet its commitment of increasing forest cover by another 25 mn ha, from the current 70.2 mn ha, by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a landmark pact aimed at slowing down global warming.
Environmentalists link the loss of forests to extreme weather swings and natural calamities such as droughts in plains and devastating landslides in hills. The government plantation schemes include the national afforestation programme, compensatory afforestation in lieu of diversion of forests for industrial projects, MGNREGS and watershed management schemes.
Bherurla Verma says his wife and six children are not worried about the ongoing monsoon. They now have a modest but waterproof house, thanks to the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis.
"This is the first monsoon season we can sleep without worries of the shelter leaking," said 51-year-old Verma, who credits the Catholic Church for the changes in Ujjain district, India.
For decades, the family lived in "a small hut made of bamboo poles and covered with tarpaulin" at Pachore, on the outskirts of Ujjain town. It flooded during the July-September monsoon season. "We had to remain awake most nights during heavy rains," Verma told ucanews.com.
That was until February when the Ujjain Diocese built a 300 sq. ft, one-bedroom house with kitchen and living room.
Verma is among 25 families who received a new house as part of the diocese's observance of the Year of Mercy.
The Year of Mercy runs from December 2015 to November 2016. Pope Francis invited Catholics from across the world to engage in spiritual and corporal works of mercy, including feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.
India has 1.77 million homeless people. According to a 2011 government Census, the majority live in cities or on the peripheries of cities.
In keeping with the teachings on the life of Jesus in the Gospels and continued by His followers in the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis has aptly announced the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. 'Be Merciful, even as your Father is merciful' (Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to the parish of St Francis de Sales, Koparkhairane.
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