What if I -- if we -- were instead being called not to look for gifts but to brace for a reckoning?
I’m not sure there was anyone more jazzed than me when Pope Francis announced a Year of Mercy. With all the obstacles, loose ends, and troubles that 2015 had brought, I enthusiastically committed to give myself to the Mercy of 2016.
Early in the year I decided that no one, noooooo one, would be more merciful than I. Motivated in part by my utter disregard of the last jubilee year, I resolved not to miss any opportunity this celebration could give. I said the Chaplet every day on the way to work, read every devotional book I could get my hands on, and visited several jubilee holy doors (just in case I needed an extra indulgence in my back pocket). I also committed myself to the practice of mercy and tried, with purpose, to make the Corporal and Spiritual acts of mercy extend from me into my family and others.
I was hopeful, waiting, and ready for mercy to take a long awaited pit-stop in my life. Seriously, I was like a kid at Halloween, holding out my bag for all the delicious and sweet mercy that was coming. I was bracing myself for mercy flowing down on me Double Dare slime-style, as I enjoyed every minute of it.
Yeah, so much for that. It seemed like instead of mercy I was handed frustration after frustration, irritations and difficulties.
Within days of the New Year, my sister-in-law’s father, who was a surrogate grandfather to my own children, passed away. I returned home from his funeral to learn that my beloved work-mentor had suddenly died. His absence changed my job from one I loved to one I dread. Finally, after spending the better part of a year arranging for my mother-in-law to move in with us, she died within weeks of her arrival, imparting a lesson to me I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn.
There was more — much more — but I will spare you the details. I can tell you this, though. The Year of Mercy was for me a year of authentic suffering, and it left me wondering, “Where the heck was all the mercy?”
One day, late in the year, when I couldn’t physically make my lips form one more prayer requesting God’s mercy, I put on my boxing gloves and decided to go head-to-head with Divine Mercy Himself, and mix it up a little bit.
Because what should a woman do in a year dedicated to mercy but decide to tell God how he should be doing it?
But gazing upon the image, I found my focus diverted to the words beneath it: Jesus, I trust in you. Those five words were not placed there by accident, and as I contemplated them, I realized everything I had been missing in my year of frustration.
It occurred to me that perhaps I never really understood mercy, or what the dedicated year was really about, to begin with.
I had been looking to God to pour out blessings like a grandmother at Christmastime. What if I — if we — were instead being called to brace for a reckoning?
2016 was a year most of us are happy to see coming to an end. It was a year to learn to say “Jesus, I trust in you,” and to really mean it. Because trust is hard — it’s the hardest thing, really, and it is the one thing that God asks of us, over and over in life. But there is mercy in the trust. In fact mercy may be the by-product of trust. If we are trusting that God means only good for us, we can take our focus off of our own problems, and become “good” for someone else in their lives, as my mentor had been for mine.
And with that, I am comforted to know that all of my suffering during 2016, we survived. Perhaps had I trusted more, we would have done more than survived while in frustration; we might have survived with a sense of joy, because we trusted. Joy because our adversities could only lead me — if I was trusting — to grow even closer to him.
I’m still glad to see 2016 end, but now I know that God’s love and mercy will continue to carry me into 2017, and whatever reckonings await me, there. More than feeling braced, I feel trusting.