Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Do We Mean By Mercy?

Firing an employee is always difficult, both on the person fired and on the person doing the firing. Writing in the Kyeongyang Magazine, a religious sister recounts what she heard at a seminar regarding the firing of a worker without warning and the experiences of his family after he lost his job. The speaker at the seminar mentioned not only what had happened to the worker's family, but noted that the company had been asked questions concerning the fired worker. 

Here is an example of two different social classes in our society and, in this situation, in opposition to each other. The speaker was in a  position of trying to heal the scars inflicted in the firing and the sister provides us with the details.

The president of the company, who was responsible for the mass firing of  employees (including our worker) in the restructuring of the company, was interviewed. When he  learned about the difficulties of the worker's family, he was deeply moved and did help the family. He  said that before hearing from the interviewer, at no time did he have any thoughts about the problems families of fired workers have to face. His concern was the success of his company, the workers didn't enter his thinking, which clearly shows that the merciful attitude is missing in much of life. How could a mass firing of workers be done, she asks, without any thought given to the impact such firings would have on both the worker and his family?

The callousness and indifference of companies to hundreds and thousands of fired workers has left  many workers without hope and desperate--all of which is barely acknowledged by those responsible. The sister sees this as a result of  original sin. Immanuel Kant said that the best way to confront evil is to see the ethical properties of  an action, a position that requires reflection, a decisive decision, and the courage to refuse to participate in injustice.

To bring this thinking into our programs of teaching is nearly impossible, the sister says. The young will follow what they have seen, and follow the examples they have been given. The future does not look bright. The worship of the almighty dollar is part of our present culture and we have embraced it, she says, whole-heartedly.  Expressions of mercy in society is shown only by a few and this is not getting better.

In Acts 4:32, we have the example of Church: "The whole community of believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed any of their possessions as his own; but rather shared all things in common." In St. Paul,1 Cor. 11:21,  we hear the harsh words spoken to those who failed to share and have mercy on the poor. Showing mercy is the essence  of pastoral work.

She concludes her article by saying that often when these discussions come out in conversation with Catholics, there are those who  very gently say that more than action, what is needed is prayer. Isn't prayer the loving answer to the moaning that we hear in creation? she asks.  In our faith tradition we have always examined the fruits of contemplation, prayer and  reflection. There are times that blood, sweat and tears are demanded, always showing sympathy for those who are suffering. And we should remember, she says, that we pray not only to feel good but to emulate the way Jesus prayed and acted. 

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