The Romans were on to something when they began their new year under the patronage of a two-headed god, Janus, capable of looking both backwards and forward.
Our current media has done both in the days ending 2015 and beginning 2016. We had had reviews of the good and the bad in the year that was ending, and a variety of predictions for what is to come. However, it seems to me that two very contradictory voices are dominating the current scene.
On the one side are the political voices of opposition, creating new ways of keeping America safe from “outsiders”, who seem to be everyone who does not look like what the speaker sees in his mirror. Fences on our borders, turning away refugees from war’s horrors, even those still in infancy, and a growing suspicion of all who do not dress and worship as the “majority” of Americans do are their recommendations.
And who exactly are these model Americans? I know my own ancestors were immigrants, as I imagine most of yours were too. Our history books have pages of the persecutions each new wave suffered from those who had arrived first. Do we have to keep repeating these injustices before we learn our lesson?
The other voice comes from Pope Francis who has wooed the nations of the world with his warmth and humanity. His voice is not a plea for better fences but a declaration that 2016 should be a year of mercy.
Mercy is a word that doesn’t translate well into English, but the Bible has quotation after quotation presenting a God of mercy to humanity. Jesus was raised on these words and he made his own statement in chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel in what was his final parable. It is the great judgment scene in which one is called into blessedness according to how he or she has seen the face of God in the neighbor.
Reread the words of Jesus and decide for yourself which voice should be heeded.