Last evening was delightful session in which we focused on the “flipside” of the Prophets’ message: the proclamation of hope (we previously focused on their “getting in the face” of Israel over injustices). We talked a lot about the experience of the Exile and how those in exile were devastated and how the Prophets brought a message of hope that culminated in the coming of Jesus.
The main focus of the session, however, was on what we can do to bring hope to those experiencing “exile” from God. I showed them a First Aid kit and asked the participants what would normally be found in there to meet the needs of injury. Then, I said that we Catholics have a Spiritual First Aid kit that contains only one thing. I had a volunteer open the kit and in their was a piece of paper with the word MERCY on it. To help them understand the concept of mercy, I showed them this 1880 painting by artist Frederick Cotman called, One of the Family, and pointed out how the mother was feeding the horse from the table as if it were “one of the family” and emphasized that this is the essence of mercy: treating others as though they were one of the family.
We used that as an introduction into the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and had some great discussion about everyday examples of practicing these, including warnings about making sure you are with an adult when seeking to help the homeless, etc.
Finally, we enjoyed a very prayerful experience of having the children paste pictures depicting each of the Works of Mercy onto corresponding frames. They did this in silence for about 20 minutes, spread out on the floor, while I played some inspirational hymns. It was wonderful to see the kids work in peace and quiet, reflecting on these works of mercy.
We are looking forward to our own “Mercy Experience” (I prefer that term over “service project) on April 21 when we will be cooking dinner for the guests at Ronald McDonald House, next door to Christ Advocate Hospital.