On Saturday, May 20, Oscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B. delivered the following remarks, entitled, ‘Mercy and its surprising ability to change hearts through goodness,” to the Fordham’s class of 2017.
Dear graduating friends of Fordham:
I am delighted to be able to address these words to you in this solemn moment of your graduation from this prestigious university. I thank Fr. McShane and his colleagues for the honor that you give me by conferring an academic degree upon me.
I want to briefly reflect with you on mercy and its wonderful ability to change hearts through kindness.
Recently the Italian philosopher, Gianni Vattimo, analyzed the impact of Pope Francis in a worldly society that is fragmented and searching for meaning. As evident in the media and elsewhere, society is currently polarized and it sometimes seems that history is walking backwards. Without a doubt we are facing what some call, “a new world” and it would seem that the old world is collapsing. What does this signify for you, dear graduates?
First of all, a territory to explore is fraught with fear and risk, but also adventure. In the twenty first century it would seem that there is nothing else to explore. But humanity continues to change; it is not static. People change. New ways of being in the world continue to be formulated. And you should be prepared for this. Territory to explore.
In the second place: Seeing humanity as it is today, interpreting in depth what is happening as a way of understanding people. Communication goes beyond the internet and the ipads. We need to speak and interpret the current language of today’s world. Language assumes a dispatcher and a recipient. If we are not in the right frequency, the recipient many times doesn’t understand us. Then we ask ourselves: How do we understand humanity if we do not know the language of today’s world? That is why we always need to learn anew.
In the third place: New opportunities. What exists are new opportunities, not only problems. Where we see problems it is best to see opportunities. People need experiences of salvation because we live in a turbulent world. You have a whole world to discover. But you also face new risks: The one who’s paralyzed in front of risks loses opportunities. We can make our risks manageable. And it is here when we can remember the new direction that Pope Francis give us: “The Church’s primary task is to bear witness to the mercy of God and to encourage generous reactions of solidarity in order to open a future of hope. For where hope increases, energy and commitment to building a more human and just social order also grows”.
Before a culture of violence and death this is what we propose: The culture of the good. No more discrimination, no more anti-semitism, no more hatred, no more violence.
How loud the words of the Pope resonate when he held up “men and women with others and for others; true models in the service of others”. Then the Sovereign Pontiff told us something fundamental, with which I would like to conclude: “In your society, which is deeply marked by secularization, I encourage you also to be present in public debate, in all the areas where humanity is at issue, to make God’s mercy and his tenderness for every creature visible.”
Yes, dear friends, let us remain committed to work with courage and heroism for “the cause of the human being”. In this way, and only in this way, will we all exhibit the transparency of God’s mercy, mercy that is love, a love that starts at home.
To be spiritual is to live life according to the Spirit, what can be called a transcendent humanism. Transcendent humanism flows from the tradition of a Christian mysticism that can appear paradoxical. Yes, it is centered on the search of God through Jesus, but it is also centered on human experience and in the search for fraternal love. it lives in the hope for the Kingdom that will have no end, but it fully embraces the work of the Kingdom in history and in society today. Yes, it receives faith as a gift from God, faith that is irreducible to any human experience, but it also acknowledges that faith takes shape in the context of particular culture, each with its own challenges and commitments.
Transcendent humanism acknowledges that the experience of God is inseparable from commitment to all that is human, and that commitment must also be to the experience of God. Without doubt, transcendent humanism is the “place” in which the mercy of Christ is incarnate and becomes practical, in love towards brothers and sisters and in the preferential love for the poor and the suffering. It is in the world as it is that the mystical becomes incarnate, in a spirit of Christian realism based on the demands of the practice of faith and love, in commitment to our brothers and sisters, in service to the poor.
The Pope tells us that parishes and communities must “become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” He reminds us that a merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. And the mercy to which we are called embraces all of creation, which God entrusted to us so that we keep it, not exploit it or worse still, destroy it. This reminds us that we, as believers, have an obligation to care for our common home, from which we receive many homes.
The encyclical letter Laudato Si, cannot be forgotten. Yes, it cannot be forgotten. For Pope Francis, mercy is not just an abstract word, but a face that we recognize, contemplate and serve. And as such he manifested it in the Bull of Mercy which he called the Jubilee: “Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God. Nothing in Him is lacking in compassion”. And then he added: “His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.”
In conclusion, I congratulate you once again on your graduation. I express my best wishes to your families and to you so that this new stage of your life may be filled with mercy and that God will continue to transform your hearts to build a culture of kindness.