Recently circumstances brought me into contact with a wonderful organization of healthcare professionals: the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). They visit patients in their homes to offer a number of medical services. Among the helps they offer is assuring that the patient remembers to take any medication that has been prescribed. This is invaluable for anyone who may have the tendency to forget to take the medicine. This is a serious matter. Medication is prescribed for a reason and must be taken as directed if one is to be well. The necessary reminder must be given with regularity: take the medicine!
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been reminding us of the medicine prescribed by our Lord for the temporal well-being and eternal salvation of humanity: the medicine of mercy. As weak and sinful human beings, we are entirely dependent upon the mercy of God; we live from his tenderness, compassion and forgiveness. Yet, pride easily and persistently stands in the way of taking this particular pill. Our cultural obsession with the autonomy of the self gives birth to a particularly dangerous and debilitating “Alzheimer's”: we forget our need for mercy and hence neglect to implore its bestowal. Moreover, the greater our amnesia in regards to the receipt of mercy, the more we fail to extend it to others.
I cannot forget the first time I saw her in person. The occasion was a Youth Corps event at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in 1982. Thousands of others were gathered there, and I could see her only from a distance. What I remember vividly when she arrived was the extraordinary energy that exuded from this person of very small stature and filled the stadium. What we all felt instantly was the power of authentic holiness. I do not remember what she said; I do recall the impact of her presence.
As I think about it now, what we experienced that day was what Pope Francis has labelled a particular form of contagion: the contagion of goodness. Standing in the presence of Mother Teresa that day, all present “caught” the desire to grow in holiness through service of others, especially the poorest and most needy. This is something we are all called to “spread” by the example of a holy life.
The diseases of pride, selfishness, hatred, violence and division spread very quickly and are causing great sickness today in the body of the human family. The antidote to these viruses is mercy. They can be healed if we but remember to take the medicine!! We must stop forgetting to to take it and then be quick to dispense it.
Thank you, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, for demonstrating in your own life the great power of mercy to heal and transform. Pray for us