November 7, 2015 | Reflections from Sr Antonia
The excitement would reach fever pitch once we had changed trains at the junction and boarded the little mail train for the last leg of our journey home. Yes, we were going home!
I was actually one of those people who enjoyed being at boarding school… but going home was much better! The journey lasted seven hours with us (all nine of us from our little country town) reaching our destination just as the sun was setting in the western sky. It was as though even the little mail train knew we were almost there and, sensing our excitement would pick up speed, racing for the station… faster and faster. The wheels seemed to be chanting the phrase, almost there, almost there, almost there. Clutching our hats as we leaned out the windows (yes one could do that in those days) we waved to our parents waiting on the platform for us with open arms. (And always with a baked dinner on the table!) The smells and the smiles wrapped us in love. We were home!
Pope Francis has triggered these old memories that really do melt my heart.
Come home! he is saying, for the coming Year of Mercy. Come home, all of you who are hurting or feeling betrayed, marginalised, wounded, forgotten, unwelcome or unworthy, and you who have simply wandered away. Come home, we are waiting for you.
The Good Shepherd painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner
And to those of us who are already 'at home' he says: Watch and wait for them, welcome them, forgive them and ask their forgiveness, receive them, have mercy on them and joyfully anticipate their arrival.
What is mercy… really… I wondered. It is certainly not pity. To pity someone is to place them below oneself, to distance them from oneself. No, mercy is much more of a leveller and much more demanding. It is an expression coming from a heart that can say, 'That too is me; there too go I'. (C.G. Jung). I also am the sinner, the lost one, the broken one, the outcast, the stray, the one who has betrayed and who has been betrayed. Showing mercy means that I open my arms to you because I too have received mercy.
To suffer with, to spare, to relieve, yes this is mercy.
"Oh the bliss of those who show mercy, they shall have mercy shown them."
I pray with all my heart that I will always have a heightened awareness of the mercy that I have received, from God and from others, so that I can likewise receive whomsoever God chooses to send my way, with that same mercy.
Going home can be a long journey, full of all sorts of emotions, ranging from utter joy, though apprehension, to fear and trembling, because… sometimes home has not been a place we feel we would want to return to; or sometimes the Church is not a place we feel we would want to return to, again for many, many different reasons. But it is a journey that we all need to risk taking, because time changes all things; hearts do mellow; people do regret aspects of the past; people do suffer from having hurt others or made mistakes. And sometimes there is someone waiting at home and longing to say: 'I am sorry'; or, 'We were wrong' please forgive us; or 'Come home', all is forgiven.
Come home, says Pope Francis. We are waiting for you.