by Dominic Sternhagen
Editor's Note: One of Mount Angel Seminary's Theology One students, Dominic Sternhagen studying for the Diocese of Salt Lake, offers this reflection on the Year of Mercy. It will also be published in Utah's Catholic paper, Intermountain Catholic.
What is your favorite image of mercy? The prodigal son? An image of the Good Shepherd? Christ feeding the multitudes, or welcoming children?
All of these are beautiful, and I love them all, but my personal favorite is the cross. The cross, because here we see mercy that holds nothing back, that gives everything, even life. Christ did not do some nice things, he did everything he could for those whom he loved.
Saint Teresa of Kolkata, the saint of this Year of Mercy, said in her acceptance speech on receiving the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize that we have to give until it hurts.
True love, true mercy, is not easy. Love means becoming vulnerable to others, putting oneself at risk. But without love, there is no mercy, only tolerance. In my experience, it is relatively easy to give money, but much harder to give of ourselves, to look the people that are left for dead by the sides of our streets in the eye and love them, as the good Samaritan did.
But this is the mercy that we are called to give this year: to reach out, reach out to those whom we left by the roadside of our lives, estranged family or friends. To mend relationships, give of ourselves to those most in need. Love.
The cross hangs, often forgotten, in the shadows of our churches and our lives. Too often I see only an ornament and forget the magnitude and the love of that sacrifice. I know how far I am from following the example of love without limits that is contained in the image of those simple crossed beams and that broken body, but I am inspired by it. I am inspired to follow it, inspired to give everything I can, or at least to try, like Him, to become mercy.