“2016 was unmerciful.”
These are not my words.
I’m quoting from yesterday’s newspaper.
This is the caption on the top of page p. 2B.
“2016 was unmerciful. It was surreal.
As the ride comes to a stop some of us are feeling woozy…”
This is what the article states.
The word “unmerciful” catches my attention.
“Un” is a word prefix. In Latin it means “not”.
So according to this reporter, or better said, this commentator,
2016 was “not” merciful.
The word “surreal” also catches my attention.
“Sur” is also a word prefix. In French it means “over, above”.
According to this article
2016 was “over and above” the real; it was like a dream.
In context, 2016 was like a dream gone bad.
The implication is that if we could just wake up,
we would rejoin the a real world where 2016 never happened.
Time is not static. It is dynamic. It moves ever forward, never backward.
There is no rewind.
We cannot change what happened over the past year.
We can think about it. We can evaluate it….reinterpret it,
seek a deeper understanding of events.
We can take responsibility for the things our choices set into motion.
So what do all these unmerciful and surreal happenings mean?
It means that as human beings we are historical creatures
both socially and individually.
We have a history. We have a past.
Our choices and decisions follow us through time.
They are not static, not a one-time deal.
They are dynamic. They continue to affect and influence the unfolding of our history.
Other than naturally occurring events, every unmerciful and surreal happening in 2016
can be traced back to some human choice or decision.
As human beings we build our societies, our cultures.
We invent. We compose. We create. We utilize resources.
What motivates us is complex.
We can be motivated by power, reputation, money, lust, revenge, selfishness and the like.
We can be motivated by faith, love, charity, virtue, the common good, altruism.
The article in the newspaper referred to 2016 as a ride.
I’m assuming an amusement park or festival/carnival ride.
We get off this ride because it ends. And get on a new ride….2017.
Why do we get on “rides”? …because they entertain us. They thrill us….exhilarate us.
The underlying implication is that life is meant to entertain us.
If we’re not entertained, then we’re not happy.
And if we’re not happy…we make the people around us unhappy.
If we’re not happy then we’re doing something wrong
and life becomes like a bad dream we want to escape.
If you look back on 2016 and conclude it was unmerciful and surreal
you may want to check to see what ride carried you through the year.
If you come here today wanting a ride through 2017 that will be entertaining
you’ve gotten in the wrong line
and you’ve taken a seat on the wrong ride.
By being Catholic, by choosing a life of Christian discipleship,
we reject the world’s current standard of measurement
where the good and value of something is determined by its ability to entertain.
We embrace as a standard for what is good and what has value
something that is constant, unchanging, reliable.
We embrace the Incarnation….Jesus Christ, Son of God, come into this world.
Our ride journeys along the tracks of faith.
By seeing the world through the eyes of faith
rather than through eyes for entertainment and thrills
the world looks different.
2016 was very merciful and very real.
The hungry were fed.
The homeless were sheltered.
The grieving were comforted.
The sick were cared for.
The ignorant were schooled and educated.
The dead were buried with respect, honor and prayer.
During 2016 countless times in charity and generosity,
mercy was shown, was offered.
Many of those “with” served those “without”.
Those with hope carried many who were hopeless.
Those with faith carried many who remain faithless.
Countless hours of volunteering…
helping those who could not help themselves;
rebuilding homes and lives;
searching for the lost;
bringing acceptance and joy to those in difficult situations.
2016 was a very real year.
To some, the bad dream of 2016 was generated by
by senseless, unprovoked, unpredictable violence.
These evil things should not be happening within such an advanced technological society.
Well, evil isn’t surreal. Evil isn’t a dream where if we could just wake up, it would be gone.
Evil is real.
And it seems to be getting worse.
Why? Because God has been shut out of many hearts.
Since science can’t verify the reality of God,
faith and belief have been relegated to the realm of fantasy.
God is seen by many to be a product of the human imagination.
Will 2017 be unmerciful and surreal all over again?
Or will it be merciful and real?
I guess it depends upon what ride we choose to ride.
If you want to be entertained choose the world and its ways.
If you want to understand this human experience,
if you want to discover the ways of justice and peace,
if you want to be drawn into the deeper waters of mystery and glory
then choose faith.
Choose to deepen your faith.
Choose to live your faith.
Choose to love especially where there will be no reward of entertainment.
St. Augustine said: “the (human) will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.”
This kind of sums up what I’ve been saying.
The rider trains the horse, instructs the horse, guides the horse.
If the rider didn’t do this the horse would remain wild, doing as it pleased.
The human will is like a horse.
God’s grace is the rider we allow on our back…to guide us and instruct us.
(What does Jesus say? “Take my yoke upon your shoulder.”)
If we refuse grace, if we deny grace because we’ve never learned what it is,
where it can be found, and how it works…
then our human will is destined to be wild, going where it wants, doing what it pleases.
Our prayer for today: “O Lord, you have made us in Your image. We are created for the purpose of being in communion with You. At the beginning of this new year, inspire us to re-commit ourselves to a life of faith. And fill us with the courage, strength and desire to make it a year that is merciful and is full of love that is real. Amen!”
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God
“2016 was unmerciful.”