I was moved, uncomfortable, sad, and empowered all at the same time last week as many of us stood together on the steps of the Chapel to make a statement about our disgust of racism in general, and the racist acts that took place on our campus in particular. When I find myself feeling those very divergent feelings all at the same time, I want to pray. I want to pray to ask God to be with me in my anxiousness; I want to pray to ask God to bless with his grace all who are impacted in whatever way; and I want to pray to ask God for his mercy for the ways in which we regularly fail to love each other. And yet, other than my silent prayer in a loud crowd, on the steps of a house of prayer, no prayer was to be heard at a time that called for it powerfully.
God’s mercy in action is what we witnessed as we celebrated Holy Week. A God that so loves the world that he sends his only Son to die and rise to save us from eternally playing out the old script of sin, hatred, and death is a God who lives mercy. Looking at our own actions can tell us clearly that we may still be far from acting out that kind of mercy every day. To die to ourselves so as to live for others is the ultimate merciful act that many of us are challenged to embrace each day. And yet we fail to act mercifully by the choices we make to put our own needs, thoughts, and actions above those of others. So what is our way of mercy?
At least we can pray! This past Sunday was Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast made universal in the Church on the Second Sunday of Easter by St. John Paul II during his pontificate, inspired as he was by the example of prayer of St. Faustina whose Divine Mercy prayers have become popular for so many. Whether we use her Divine Mercy Chaplet or other forms of prayer, let us examine our prayer lives this week and see if we have not become a bit too wrapped in Duke culture with an inability to pray when we need prayer the most. Are we afraid to pray before meals in The Loop? Are we inhibited from asking our friends to pray with us when we are troubled? Do we pray enough for the needs of others, especially those most in need of God’s mercy? If we cannot act mercifully like Christ, may we at least pray for his mercy upon us and our world. For it is only through the mercy of Jesus, crucified and risen for our sake, that we have hope of overcoming the sin that keeps us from loving each other as brothers and sisters regardless of our race, creed, national origin, gender or sexual orientation. Give us your mercy, Oh Lord!
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