Humanity has made great strides since the time when might was right and only the fittest survived. Some call this progress or evolution; others call it justice or humanity. Let me simply call it mercy.
A society becomes human according to how merciful it becomes. But what mercy? Surely it’s not the condescending, manipulating mercy that the strong generously bestow on the weak. Surely it’s not the cunning promotion of rights seen only as the pound of flesh that life and society owes me. This only creates the illusion of our autonomy and self-serving sufficiency.
Neither does the level of our comfort, technological or economical ‘development’ make a society truly human. If divorced from mercy, development will inevitably become inhumane and therefore inhuman. It takes us away from the very essence of our humanity.
What is happening in ‘My Malta’ indicates that we’re taking this latter direction.
Groups of NGOs, meeting to discuss how to show mercy to drowning asylum seekers, were subjected to death threats and hate speech galore. Those who took to the seas to save the drowning masses were treated as criminals for not possessing the right permits to save lives. Their mercy was not legal. Our citizenship is sold to the rich and denied to the poor.
Our mercy shines most bright on our beloved brother and sister turtles, dogs and kittens. We have created a parallel welfare system, sparing nothing to shower them with our affection and protection. This is indeed good and wholesome… if it were not for the bile and hatred, including death threats that transform the most tender-hearted animal lovers into cruel people haters.
It is when it concerns our human brothers and sisters that our mercy fails most darkly and cruelly. We rightly mobilise our conservation and law-enforcement forces to protect turtle eggs so they may live. But there is no similar mercy to human fertilised eggs which we see as commodities to be frozen, conserved, used or left to die according to need or convenience.
When Christmas comes around we become the most generous, merciful money-donors. We love giving money. Every year we seek to surpass our own generosity and relish counting the millions. This is good. Very good indeed. But how generous are we with our time for our digitally and toy-spoilt, practically abandoned children?
The State is so generous and merciful (to parents) – free breakfasts, free after-school child care, free transport… We wax lyrical over our booming economy while ignoring how it is robbing our children of the parents who begot them. No mercy for children entrusted to State care from early morning to late evening, just in time for parents to put them in bed.
We have misplaced our mercy. Who is showing mercy to our families, especially younger ones – property owners, construction magnates, social media? Will opening a clinic for drunken adolescents be our heroic act of mercy to save the nightlife victims whose lives are being destroyed by alcohol and drugs? Are gentlemen’s clubs the way to churn out real gentlemen, preparing them for the noble call of fatherhood, or the exploited women for the joys of motherhood?
But life has become too tense today, and mercy means providing relief through pleasure and alcohol, doesn’t it? We have full employment, after all. So what’s the fuss?
“Blessed are the merciful… for they shall receive mercy” (Mt 5:7) said the One who is All Mercy. He knows that real mercy can only come from those who themselves need it. Real mercy cannot come from those seeking to be strong, rich or powerful. They see misery and suffering only as an opportunity to exploit and extract more power and money. This is the false mercy of the worldly. The mercy Jesus speaks of is the one coming from the wounded, weak and suffering hearts who know what it means to need mercy. Mercy is not just solving or fixing pain and suffering, however much that may be desirable. Mercy is first and foremost sharing the pain and offering oneself as a loving and faithful gift to the one in pain. It is God giving Himself in His son Jesus.
As Mother Teresa used to say: “It is not how much you give, but how much love you put in what you give.” Love is the only reality that makes the giver become the gift. That’s when humanity discovers itself and becomes truly merciful and truly humane.
Will ‘My Malta’ be able to rediscover its humanity through real mercy? If only we stopped to listen we could hear it silently calling from deep inside our heart.
Fr Paul Chetcuti is a member of the Society of Jesus.