Written by Michael Miller on the Solemnity of St. Joseph
“Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.”
This is my favorite definition of mercy.
I learned it from a moral theologian — James Keenan, S.J. — and I share it every chance I get. I often share it during new employee orientation at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. My job is to support my colleagues as we ensure that our mission, values and Catholic identity are tangible in the work we do each day. I get to remind my co-workers about the sacred opportunity we have to be mercy for others.
Every day, people walk into hospitals not knowing why they are sick, anxiously waiting for a diagnosis. Some of them are afraid that they don’t have enough money to pay for the care they need. This is living in chaos.
While we know we can’t cure everyone, we can care for everyone. We can be companions in their time of need. We can enter into their chaos. We can be mercy for them.
Even if you don’t work in a hospital, you probably have opportunities to be mercy for others everyday. In his 2015 Message for Lent, Pope Francis shares his hope that we take advantage of these opportunities:
“…how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present … may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”
Perhaps you’ve heard the Gospel story about Joseph learning that Mary was pregnant before they got married. This freaked him out. He was ready to divorce her and leave. However, God intervened and Joseph chose to stay with Mary. He willingly entered into the divine chaos of Mary’s life. Joseph was mercy for Mary.
I would guess that you know people living in some kind of chaos. Whether they are in our parish, workplace, neighborhood or our own family, we can, like Joseph, be mercy for others.
Questions for Reflection:
How can I reject indifference today? How can I be mercy for others?
Michael Miller, Jr.
Michael is the Regional Chief Mission Officer at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. He studied philosophy at Loyola University New Orleans (BA ’01), liturgy at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis (MA ’07) and is currently studying bioethics at Loyola University Chicago. He moved to Ann Arbor in 2011 with his wife, daughter and dog, and is grateful for their willingness to enter into his chaos.
Editor’s Note: Pope Francis recently announced a Holy Year of Mercy, which will be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. Click here to learn more.