A few weeks ago, I was sitting with my dad in his room at the retirement home when I noticed that he kept scratching his leg. I grabbed some lotion, knelt on the ground in front of him, and rubbed the lotion on his legs. When I was done, he relaxed back into his chair and said, “Thanks. That feels so much better.”
I remember looking up at him and thinking of the many times these roles had been reversed. How often over the years had he tied my shoes, soothed a scrape, held my hand, had my back? I wondered if he got as much joy and comfort out of doing those things as I just had in helping him. For some reason, the entire encounter felt like a holy moment. I didn’t realize why, though, until I sat down and started thinking about this blog.
Last December, Pope Francis challenged Catholics to up our game when it comes to the concept of mercy when he announced the year long Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy for the Church. He said, “Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
I remember thinking about how much I loved the idea and all it entailed: the drama of walking through holy doors, pilgrimages, Jubilee celebrations, grand opportunities for acts of mercy. I also remember wondering how it was going to fit into my everyday life. I mean, how exactly does mercy manifest itself in the life of this wife, mother of four, full-time writer, and part-time caregiver for my father? It seemed to me that the only doors I was going to be passing through in the near future were those at my home, work, or the retirement village where my dad lives.
I was feeling pretty down about what I felt was my less-than-stellar job of heeding Pope Francis’ call to up our mercy game. But then came that moment with my dad. Why had it not occurred to me that many of the things I do on a daily basis—cooking dinners, helping with homework, accompanying our oldest, Maddie, on her journey to college—are actually works of mercy? Perhaps I had thought of these acts as too ordinary, too small. But even the smallest acts of mercy can have a big impact, right?
The End Is Near—Or Is It?
And now, here we are. This month marks the end of the Year of Mercy. What do we do now? Will we sustain the call of Pope Francis to better incorporate mercy into our lives? How do we stay the course to which we have been called this past year?
A good first step might be to take a look at our everyday lives and recognize—and give ourselves credit for—the acts of mercy that we are already practicing. We’re probably already doing more than we even realize.