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The Courage Of Mercy

A Reflection by Brother Alois of Taizé – December 2015

Throughout the year 2015, at Taizé, we looked for ways to get involved in new solidarities; these are so urgent today. Across the earth, new forms of distress – migratory, ecological and social – are a challenge for believers of different religions and for non-believers alike.

Armed violence is wreaking havoc in the name of inhuman ideologies. While remaining clear-headed, we shall continue our “pilgrimage of trust” as a way of resisting the fear generated by insecurity. It is even more urgent that those who are looking forward to – or already living – a globalization of solidarity support one another.

When the storm rages, a house built on rock remains stable (Matthew 7:24-25).

We want to build our lives on the words of Christ, and so our rock will consist of a few basic Gospel realities, accessible to all: joy – simplicity – mercy. These are set at the heart of the life of our Taizé Community; they enable us to keep going, even in difficult times, assimilating them in order to return to them day after day.

These three words will guide us on our journey over the next three years. In 2016, we shall begin with mercy, in the same spirit as the Year of Mercy launched by Pope Francis.

The Gospel calls us to bear witness to God’s compassion. Here are five proposals to awaken in us the courage of mercy.

Proposal 1 – Entrust ourselves to God who is mercy

You are a God who forgives, a gracious and compassionate God, patient and abounding in love. (Nehemiah 9:17)

Be merciful as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

According to the Bible God is mercy, in other words compassion and kindness. By telling the parable of the father and his two sons (Luke 15), Jesus shows us that God’s love does not depend on the good we can do; it is given unconditionally.

Proposal 2 – Forgive again and again

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Peter came up to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

God’s forgiveness never fails. In the course of his entire life and even on the cross, Christ forgave; he refused to condemn anyone.

Proposal 3 – Draw near to a situation of distress, alone or with a few others

If you give yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no mercy on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)

The icon of mercy shows Christ looking at us with love and telling us the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10).

Proposal 4 – Extending mercy to its social dimensions

I am the Lord, who acts with kindness, justice and righteousness on earth. (Jeremiah 9:23)

This is what the Lord requires of you: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

In the heart of God, all human beings make up a single family. So mercy extends to ever vaster dimensions.

Proposal 5 – Mercy for the whole of creation

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest. (Exodus 23:12)

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. (Exodus 23:10)

In the language of its time, the Bible calls us to extend our compassion to the environment, to respect all living creatures, not to work the land without discernment.

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