Young parents of a six month old baby murder fourteen and injure twenty-two. Eight men, an ISIS kamikaze terror squad, dressed in suicide belts and armed with AK 47's mow down over one hundred thirty and injure 350 at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris. To date, there have been 298 murderous attacks by religious extremists in this year which has not yet ended. Why a year of mercy? How does a merciful response make any sense in the face of untrammeled hatred?
How do we deal with a new parent who pledges public allegiance to ISIS following the birth of his child? Who then murders fourteen people, among whom were his friends? Pope Francis, that lightning rod for debate among the orthodox Catholic world declares mercy, an entire year of it. On Tuesday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, an Extraordinary Jubliee will begin.
'I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!
This Holy Year will commence on the next Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will conclude on Sunday, 20 November 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and living face of the Father's mercy.'
There are few among the seven or eight billion souls on this beleaguered planet who are not asking, 'what is wrong with this world?' Violence, hopelessness, famine, gut wrenching poverty, mass shootings are only a beginning of the threats to the beauty of creation and the future of humanity.
The question is not a new one. In 1910, the London Times invited several famous authors to submit essays on the subject, "What is wrong with the world?" Renowned writer and converted atheist GK Chesterton's reply took the form of a letter:
Many writers of late have quoted the interaction. Curious, while researching the anecdote attributed to Chesterton, I found that he had written a book with that title, What Is Wrong With The World? Available for free on Google, this is classical Chesterton; acerbic, witty, and painfully observant. Chesterton wrote in an age when the erosion of language and meaning was just beginning. Politically correct language had not yet hit early twentieth century England. He writes these carefully chosen words, tragically far more descriptive of the 21st century than of his own:
...But certainly there is no force so hard to fight as the force which it is easy to conquer; the force that always yields and then returns. Such is the force of a great impersonal prejudice, such as possesses the modern world on so many points. Against this there is no weapon at all except a rigid and steely sanity, a resolution not to listen to fads, and not to be infected by diseases. In short, the rational human faith must armour itself with prejudice in an age of prejudices, just as it armoured itself with logic in an age of logic. But the difference between the two mental methods is marked and unmistakable. The essential of the difference is this: that prejudices are divergent, whereas creeds are always in collision. Believers bump into each other; whereas bigots keep out of each other's way. A creed is a collective thing, and even its sins are sociable. A prejudice is a private thing, and even its tolerance is misanthropic. So it is with our existing opinions. Genuine controversy, fair cut and thrust before a common audience, has become in our special epoch very rare. For the sincere controversialist is above all things a good listener. The really burning enthusiast never interrupts; he listens to the enemy's arguments as eagerly as a spy would listen to the enemy's arrangements. But if you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will find that no medium is admitted between violence and evasion....The only logical cure for all this is the assertion of a human ideal. In dealing with this, I will try to be as little transcendental as is consistent with reason; it is enough to say that unless we have some doctrine of a divine man, all abuses may be excused, since evolution may turn them into uses. It will be easy for the scientific plutocrat to maintain that humanity will adapt itself to any conditions which we now consider evil. The old tyrants invoked the past ; the new tyrants will invoke the future.
Could we locate a finer description of the state of discourse in current culture? And how likely is it, do we think, that in this increasingly polarized prejudicial -yes- prejudicial- culture, we can find solutions to the loathing that a few young Muslims feel for the west? More bombs? More 'collateral damage'?
Mercy, indeed. Merciful like the Father.