Editorial: The face of mercy

  • August 25, 2017

Pope Francis seldom misses an opportunity to explain the meaning of mercy. A Toronto cop recently demonstrated what it looks like.

Const. Niran Jeyanesan arrived at a Walmart to investigate a call regarding a suspected 18-yearold shoplifter being detained by store security. For a big-city cop it was a routine call that he transformed into something extraordinary.

Teens tend to shop (or shoplift) in the music, technology and games departments. Jeyanesan, thinking it odd the young man was caught with a dress shirt, tie and socks, didn’t immediately slap on the cuffs. Instead of passing judgment, he asked a simple question. Why?

Here’s what he heard. The teen’s father had fallen ill and, because he was unable to work, the family home was lost. It fell on the teen to help support the family. He landed a job interview. Desperate for work and having no money for suitable clothes, he resorted to shoplifting.

Touched by the story of a young man at a crossroad in life, and seeing his obvious shame and remorse, the officer pulled out his credit card and paid the $40 for the merchandise. The teen was spared from arrest and the possible criminal record that might ruin his life.

He then landed the job.

A similar story of mercy has been playing out along the Quebec-U.S. border, where thousands of asylum seekers have been fleeing an unpredictable America. Like the young shoplifter, these people seek little more than a shot at a better life. It might be a stretch to suggest they’re always greeted with open arms, but there have been many heartening displays of mercy and compassion, certainly so when compared to past scenes at some European borders.

That’s how it should be, as laid out so clearly by Pope Francis. Here’s what he said: “Being unemployed or not receiving a sufficient salary; not being able to have a home or a land in which to live; experiencing discrimination on account of one’s faith, race or social status — these are just a few examples of many situations that attack the dignity of the person. In the face of such attacks, Christian mercy responds above all with vigilance and solidarity. How many situations exist today where we can restore dignity to individuals and make possible a truly humane life!” A Christian response to hardship of any type is to become instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace. To show mercy. We do this, said Francis, by acts as simple as a reassuring word, an embrace, an act of charity, a prayer, and by becoming envoys of hope and joy. Mercy, said Francis, impels us to “roll up our sleeves” and reach out to those who are suffering.

Sometimes, that’s as simple as being a good cop.

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