The upcoming Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis coincides with our presidential election year. Could there be a connection between mercy and politics?
In the lowest, foulest circle of Hell, frozen immovably in eternal ice, Dante put the most coldblooded sinners, traitors. Among them is a friar, Brother Albergio. Having had a falling out with his family, he invited them to dinner. Then, rather than bringing about reconciliation, he murdered them. Dante hailed him with surprise.
“Oh,” said I, “Are you dead already?”
And he responded, “How my body stands
up in the world above, I do not know.
Such privilege has this realm of Ptolomea [treachery against guests],
that oftentimes the soul drops down to Hell
before the Fates have cut the thread of life.” (Inferno 33.121-125)
Brother Albergio’s soul was already in Hell while his body lived on, “taken by a demon, who controls it until the time arrives for it to die.” Creepy.
When I read that, various national and world leaders popped into my head. People who strike me as robotically performing pre-written sound bites and schemes toward some end they no longer remember, no longer believe in, or that has shriveled to nothing but self-aggrandizement. Soulless, hopeless living dead they seem.
That may say far more about me than I’d like, but by now you’ve come up with a list too. Demonizing and damning leaders we don’t like is, alas, part and parcel of American political culture today on both sides of the aisle.
Yet no one really suffers Brother Albergio’s fate. Those in Hell have put themselves beyond the reach of God’s mercy by fully and finally rejecting it. Those still living may reject God’s mercy and live wickedly, but insofar as they still live, they are not beyond mercy’s reach.
And Christians are God’s ambassadors of mercy (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2).
Read the rest here.