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How can Mercy address the fears that plague the world?

August 4, 2011

By Marianne Comfort, Institute Justice Team

A talk on Christian ministry by theologian Sandra Schneiders at Washington Theological Union recently has further shaped my thoughts around the “whys” of Mercy’s justice work.

Schneiders, a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, explained that Christian service is much more than “baptized humanitarianism.” Others also perform good works such as feeding the hungry and healing the sick, she pointed out, but Christians are called to more: to get at the root of evil or what she calls ”that which should not be.”

She explained that fear, not disobedience or pride or lust, is the source of all evil, beginning with Adam and Eve’s alienation from God. In that biblical narrative, Satan awakened a recognition that humans didn’t create themselves and then instilled a fear that they were at the mercy of a capricious God.

That fear and its self-protective response has plagued humanity ever since, Schneiders suggested, most recently with a pre-emptive war, over-eating and shopping compulsions, striving after financial security and a rejection of immigrants whom we worry challenge our way of life.

Jesus’ death and resurrection demonstrate that death is not a threat God holds over us nor a sign that God is untrustworthy, she said. Humans can let go of a frantic concern for our own security, because we can trust a loving God who desires for us life to the fullest.

The Christian mission, then, is not just to make the world a better place, Schneiders concluded, but to share the good news through our word and deed that God is love and nothing can harm us.

“Fear disempowers us,” she said. “If we can live into the courage of the resurrection, we will be a force in the world that can’t be snuffed.”

Her message keeps returning to me as I reflect on the Sisters of Mercy’s work in addressing poverty, Earth concerns, immigration, nonviolence, racism and women’s issues. How do we live out that Easter message more fully ourselves and then encourage others to lay down their fears to embrace a more socially just world?

What are your thoughts?

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