by Jennie M. Xue
On December 8, 2015 Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican to inaugurate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. And he started it early in Central African Republic by opening the holy door in the Bangui cathedral on November 29, 2015. This special year will end on November 20, 2016 with the feast of Christ the King.
His Holiness Pope Francis himself is the embodiment of “mercy.” He was nicknamed “Pastor of Mercy” and now “Pope of Mercy.” It takes a great man to be a great pope and Pope Francis is the great man we need in this age to remind us about returning to humanity and being our greater selves.
We mortals are sinners, deal breakers, and manipulators. Politicians call it being “Machiavellian.” Niccolo Machiavelli, a 15th century political philosopher and author of The Prince, wrote “A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.” He also wrote, “A prince never lacks good reasons to break his promise.”
Being Machiavellian is what exactly Pope Francis and The Year of Mercy are reminding us not to do. If we consciously or unconsciously and directly or indirectly have been living a “Machiavellian lifestyle,” it’s time to reflect and being greater than ourselves for the sake of our individual selves, our families, our friends, and the humankind.
The Year of Mercy is directed at three audiences: individuals, the clergy of Catholicism and Christendom, and the world. Most of us belong to the first category whose deed directly and indirectly impact the third category.
This message of mercy applies to all human beings, not merely the Christians. A religion, after all, is merely a structure for which universal values, like mercy, compassion, kindness, and care are reiterated systematically. Because, in the end, only love prevails, not fear.
The thing with human beings is we are torn into two directions: fear and love.
According to spiritual author Marianne Williamson in her book The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life, the world is riddled with collective anxiety and fear. Today’s social realities breed despair and anguish due to various external factors, ranging from political to economic and financial elements.
The economic system based on “material scarcity” has been hurting us in an unprecedented manner, which must be balanced with an understanding that “inner abundance” is readily available. The trillions of minuscule thoughts we have within directly affect how the world works. Williamson argued that the world is a projection of individual psyches collected on a “global screen.”
Thus, The Year of Mercy is exactly what we need to start changing ourselves from the inside out.
Of course, we need to do the works needed to make this special year meaningful with long-lasting results. Just when we helped in creating a fear-based world, we need to participate in creating a more peaceful world.
How? With mercy, mutual forgiveness, and reconciliation. It’s not wishful thinking if we’re honest with our emotions and by inviting a greater self to emerge and take control of our deeds and thoughts.
We can dismantle our thought system based on fear and substitute it with a system based on mercy. It’s probably “easier said than done,” thus we can expect to see many people “talk only, no action.” After all, how do we do it?
There is no simple answer and there never will, even though we all know that it’s possible to create a different reality where the world is peaceful and orderly.
The message of the Year of Mercy is the answer to this quest: We are a part of God and God is within us. We can be the solution. Tapping into our greater self within is the first step toward a merciful external world. You can start small with things that embody kindness. You can even start with yourself.
It’s not easy, especially when we have been so immersed in the “culture of fear and anguish” for millennia. We can only remind our own selves to act kindly toward ourselves and our circles. Eventually, those selves and circles would confluent and start creating larger impact.
Pope Francis reminded us that peace can be achieved through mercy, mutual forgiveness, and reconciliation. Afraid not of these big words for we can start with micro deeds by loving ourselves first and foremost.
Life is full of despair and anguish because fear has been residing too long in our hearts. The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to replace it with what we have within all along.
Let’s help each other being our greater selves. Merry Christmas.
Jennie M. Xue is an award-winning author and columnist based in California.