By Sister Mary Shaw, ASC

Pope Francis recently published his first book as pope, “The Name of God is Mercy,” which offers a practical way to live the environment encyclical that he completed a year ago today.

That encyclical, “Laudato Si,’” (today is the anniversary of its publication date) holds that everything is interconnected, and that we cannot be indifferent to anything. Yet, we tell ourselves that the refugee crisis, climate change and deportation are not our concern.

When our conscience gets pricked a little, we make a donation and stay at a safe distance to avoid encountering those with difficult lives. The ‘smell of the sheep’ will not taint us.

But Pope Francis calls us to treat wounds “with the medicine of mercy.”

He calls the Church “a field hospital where treatment is given to the most wounded.” In opening our hearts to the vulnerable, we become merciful and connected with God.

In his book, Francis calls us to “serve Christ the Crucified through every marginalized person.” He writes: “We touch the flesh of Christ in the one who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, and naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted and in search of refuge. That is where we find our God. That is where we touch our Lord.”

This captures the core of his encyclical. “If we are to hear the cries of the earth and the poor we must integrate questions of justice and peace.” They are inseparably one.

We often hear that charity is not enough, and that we need to give from our scarcity as the widow in Scripture did.

That means a willingness to risk an encounter and get the “smell of the sheep” or migrant, homeless and vulnerable person on our attire.

During this month dedicated to Mary, mother and nurturer of life, may we uncover the place and meaning of mercy in our heart and life and perhaps be empowered to be God’s proxy to the least among us.

As John of the Cross said, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”