Calling Men and Women of Good Will

This photo popped up on my Facebook news feed a few days ago:

Over the years, I have often embarked on a Lenten fast – sometimes from chocolate, at others from dessert or wine or coffee. Always an indulgence, the theory being that as I abstain, it acts as a prompt to pray. Often, I have caught myself remembering my pledge as I pop the object of my fasting in my mouth.

These words of Pope Francis appeal to me on the one hand and appall me on the other. I know that I will remember my fast as I speak that unkind word or fail to see the positive in the face of all that is not as it should be. But I’ve decided to give it a go.

When I fail, it will be an invitation to remember that I aspire to more; to focus my prayer, not on my failing, but on my desire. I encourage you to join me in this Lenten fast; if the list seems overwhelming, pick one as a focus. I plan to focus most on the last one – to fast from words and be silent, so that I can listen.

Pope Francis, in his 2018 Lenten address, extends his invitation to ‘men and women of good will’ that they join him in ‘almsgiving, fasting and prayer’. Prayer might be too much of a stretch, but fasting as defined above, might not be too big an ask.  So, I call on men and women of good will to fast with me between now and Easter; surely, we would have nothing to lose and much to gain.

Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight

Three days ago, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the so-called doomsday clock from three to two and a half minutes to midnight, noting that ‘world leaders have failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change’.

They also cited Donald Trump’s disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the emergence of strident nationalism worldwide.

The Board has issued a statement stressing how high the risk of global disaster is, but, for me, it’s not the risk but their concluding statement that is the most telling:

Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink.

If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.

Wisdom, it seems, is currently in short supply.  Yesterday, the scriptures listed in the Revised Common Lectionary included Micah 6:1-8 and 1 Corinithians 1:18-31. Both questioned their original readers and these questions continue to resound today:

From the apostle, Paul: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

From the prophet Micah: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here are some questions of my own:

How might the oft-deemed foolish message of the gospel speak to the ‘high risk of global disaster’?

How has this gospel message been reduced to the question of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, especially in the Christian discourse coming out of the USA?

If wisdom is not forthcoming from our public officials, what will the leadership of wise citizens look like?

Surely, it will begin with justice, kindness and humility.

Mercy Defined


An underused word in our modern society, it seems to have fallen out of fashion except, perhaps, in religious settings. We rarely hear it spoken, even in fiction. Perhaps that’s why the appeal of Les Miserables persists – the premise of mercy on which the story stands is irresistible.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines mercy as:

compassionate or kindly forbearance shown towards an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence

Synonyms include:

providing mercy

  • compassion
  • pity
  • kindness
  • forgiveness



Mercy, thus defined, is something given in a situation of inequality by the one with the greater power. Inspector Jaevert had it in his power to treat Valjean as an equal, especially once he had served his time, but he declined to do so.

This idea of unequal power is a central concept to understanding what mercy means. How we behave towards someone over whom we have a vestige of power is a sure way of identifying what, if anything, we know about mercy.

Because we don’t have to look very far to see the misuse and abuse of power, we may wonder if there is any mercy in our society today. It’s my premise that mercy is to be found, but because we don’t always find it in the places we think it should be, we don’t always see it, or if we do, we fail to name it.