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Mercy Moments: Episode Four

Mercy Moments: Our lives are dripping with mercy.  Indeed, our world is drenched in it. 

When you’re raised Catholic in Steubenville, Ohio, you quickly learn that when a priest, deacon, or eager youth minister prompts you with the statement, “God is good”, the correct and only possible response is “All the time.”  It helps if you shout it.  Then they will invariably reverse the prompt asking, “All the time?”  And of course, the congregation or youth group will shout even louder, “God is good.”   

Years after I had moved away from my hometown, I was having coffee with a small group of friends in the rectory of a neighborhood church one afternoon when the pastor, Fr. Mark, took a sip from his Styrofoam cup, leaned back in his chair, and said with a deep sigh as he simultaneously shrugged both his shoulders and his eyebrows “God is good…but then again.”  

But then again?  I’m sorry.  Incorrect.  You meant to say all the time, Mark.  God is good all the time

I didn’t actually vocalize my initial response.  I just smiled.  Meanwhile, inside I felt a mixture of surprise, shock, joy, humor, and most notably, relief.  Truth!  Yes!  It was truth!  For the first time!  God is good AND life is hard. It wasn’t the classic, yet kindly dismissive, “Life is hard, BUT God is so, so good.”  That’s a major shift in messaging and I was on board!

Now if you’re like me, this message might come as a welcome relief.  If you need more convincing, let me assure you I am not diminishing God’s goodness.  But I’m also not diminishing the very real pain, suffering, and injustice present in our world. 

God is good.  But then again war is ravaging Ukraine. 

God is good.  But then again families are kept apart due to a broken immigration system. 

God is good.  But then again refugees wait decades to find the peace of a permanent home. 

“But then again” acknowledges the pain without offering a superficial solution or a quick fix.   

“But then again” allows us to enter the pain, witness the suffering, visit with those experiencing injustice, and name our own shame.  Then, it invites Grace to be present alongside us in all of the mess.   

And yes, Grace might alleviate or console or even help.  But it also might just embrace us – all of us – making it known to us that we are never alone. 

And that’s the work of Catholic Charities.  We acknowledge the pain in our communities.  We are present to the suffering.  We remind people that they are never alone.  And then guided by Grace, we work to build a more merciful and just world. 

Calling for Mercy

In the face of suffering, injustice, and turmoil, what can Catholics and people of goodwill do to comfort the afflicted, seek justice, and be bringers of peace? Each day we may be presented with many opportunities to carry out both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our homes, churches, and communities. Some of us have the resources to do much, while others are in a season with little extra to give. No matter where you find yourself this week, we can join together to:

  • PRAY for all people who are without homes, shelter, or a sense of safety.
  • FAST from negativity and conversations that only lead to divisiveness, rather than understanding.
  • GIVE, if you can, to Catholic Charities to support the ongoing work of resettlement and immigration within our diocese.