Sometimes when I read the Scriptures, a word pops out for me in a way that it has not done before. In a Eucharist of the past week, Psalm 103 had that effect. The repeated responsorial verse professed “The Lord is kind and merciful.” Now, the mercy of the Lord has received some consideration by us during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 and with the gift of Pope Francis’ text “The Name of God is Mercy.” But, the word that really emerged in the phrase was “kind.”
The Psalm reminds us:
The Lord crowns you with kindness and compassion.
The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
The preceding reading from James even quoted the verse from the Psalm.
Speaking about the Lord as “kind” adds a certain gentleness and ordinariness to my appreciation of the character of our God. I like the notion of kind people and my need to be a kind person. This virtue participates in the call to “holiness,” though with no less importance.
Many of us have probably heard about the death of Dr. Paul Farmer in the past two weeks. He was a medical doctor and the co-founder of “Partners in Health.” An educator and an advocate for the health care of the poor, he caused the development of clinics and hospitals in the world’s poorest regions. He died in Rwanda just after delivering a virtual paper on “Who Lives, Who Dies: Reimagining Global Health and Social Justice.” A wonderful book detailing his ministry in Haiti gives a hint of his heart and beliefs (“Mountains Beyond Mountains”).
One of his colleagues remembered him in this way:
“The energetic kick you get from just being in his presence, it’s almost otherworldly. It’s not even otherworldly in the sense of, ‘I just came across greatness.’ It’s more, ‘I just came across kindness.’”
That word, kindness, was already circulating in my head and jumped off the page for me. Farmer was one of those men that Vincent and Louise would have identified as an ally in the care of the poor and particularly their physical health. Many marginalized people will mourn his passing.
Yes, our God is kind. Thankfully, that word also describes many of our brothers and sisters. Our hope and prayer can be that it includes each of us more and more.