In a previous blog several weeks ago, I asked you to share stories of mercy with me. Thank you to those who have. One story that I have always remembered is the saint whose feast day is today, January 31. St.John Bosco. He was born in 1815 in Italy and died in 1888. He started a congregation whose emphasis was on the care and education of youth. In one of his letters he emphasized the mercy that those in his order should manifest towards the youth in their care. When I read his words, I am challenged to be more merciful, gentle, humble, compassionate and loving as he asks of the members of his congregation. I share with you some of his wisdom: in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them…. See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger…. Let us not rule over them (the children in the care of the religious brothers) except for the purpose of serving them better. This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart. [When correcting the youth] there must be no hostility in our minds, on contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers eager for real correction and improvement.
I don’t know about your feelings when you read St. John Bosco’s words. But my reaction is that I have a lot of spiritual homework to do during this year of mercy. For your homework today you might reflect on Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:38-42: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
When we are upset or angry with someone, how can we dissipate our frustration and find personal peace as well as reconciliation with the person(s) with whom we are angry. How can we use the weapon of mercy to restore peace when we are upset? Good homework questions. John Bosco might be a good saint to whom we might ask to intercede for us.