“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”.
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, P. 2 – Pope Francis
There was a time in my life when the word contemplation suggested isolation, withdrawal, or even loneliness. It was strongly suggested that one needs to withdraw internally, perhaps even find a desert, or better, a cave in which to embrace this self-centered silence.
The phrase “find yourself” was used frequently. The advice was to use this experience as an opportunity to have a private conversation with God. However, the exact reason for the conversation was unclear at best.
It was an early-in-life encounter with the thoughts of Trappist monk Thomas Merton that provided a more enlightened focus, much needed clarity and a more personal invitation. His autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” (provided a different expression of desert, silence and withdrawal. He seemed to make the quest for inner peace less of a goal and more a process. He challenged the reader with the radical thought that an honest look inward resulted in unequivocal living “outward.”
Merton saw the somberness of the monastery as actually embracing the richness of those who prayed there. He took the challenges of life not as private indignity but as opportunities to witness God in the marketplace. He redefined contemplation as time taken reflecting on how I may be God’s hand for another rather than myself.
Contemplation was now a much less dark and lonely exercise and more of an opportunity to understand how to use my gifts to show God’s immense love for others.
Pope Francis is asking us to take time in this Jubilee Year of Mercy to look at, rather, contemplate, what it means to meet God in the lives of those with whom we live, work and pray. He offers us the thought that this happens significantly when we are merciful.
We are called to be people of welcome and blessing rather than judges and juries. We are asked to be bridges and not walls. We are being asked to think, pray, consider, and reflect on how we can realize God’s love in our life and those with whom we live.
Simply put, we are being asked to contemplate on God’s real presence in us and our neighbor.