“Give to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.
With those words Pope Francis began his Papal Bull to announce the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. He chose to do this last night on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday because next year will be totally dedicated to mercy. The Papal Bull is a masterpiece and it is a short read which I highly recommend that you read by clicking here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html
Jesus desired to show this face of the Father’s mercy to the apostles on that first Easter which is why he commissions them to go and forgive sins. He wants his Church to also be a reflection of the Father’s mercy. This is what our Holy Father desires as well. Let me share with you some lines from last night:
We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Isn’t that what we all desire? Joy, serenity, and peace. Christ says “peace be with you” three times in today’s gospel because he knew how rattled the hearts of his disciples were and how much they needed the peace that he offered. We find what our heart desires in the heart of our Lord, which is why we must be in constant contemplation of the mystery of His mercy. His mercy is a mystery because the world does not understand it. His mercy, like the sun, rises and sets both on the just and on the sinner. It is for all! And he offers all of us the gifts of joy, serenity, and peace.
Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. This bridge of Divine Mercy is what Jesus Christ came into the world to establish. This bridge is the cross. This bridge is his forgiveness of the adulterous woman, of Peter, and the forgiveness that he talks about in the parable of the Prodigal Son. This bridge brings us closer to the Father DESPITE our sinfulness. So many of us think that our sins are unforgivable, but you show me an unforgivable sin and I’ll show you God’s infinite mercy. It is boundless. As the psalm says, it is everlasting and endures forever.
The Holy Father, whose hand is firmly steering this great bark of Peter, sets the Church on the course of mercy. He tells us: Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. Everything we do as a Church must begin from the heart of mercy. We must be compassionate. Mercy also means that we must refrain from judging and condemning. So many times we, both as a Church and as individuals, are quick to judge or condemn those that are in sin or are far from the Church. If we do not show mercy, how can they possible return? The Church in the past has erred in this even when preaching doctrine and dogma. For example in the Council of Trent, when solemnly defining the sacraments during its 7th session back in 1557, the council fathers defined every sacrament and in doing so to each definition, and I’m paraphrasing here, they would add that if someone did not believe this definition, “let him be anathema.” In other words, let them be excommunicated if they take a position contrary to the Church. We cannot effectively preach the gospel if we do not do it with mercy and compassion. Holy Mother Church will always uphold its doctrine and dogma, but must do so from a position of mercy. This is the direction the Holy Father wants to take the Church: a Church flowing with mercy and not one quick to judge and condemn which brings me to the last line that I want to share. Pope Francis says: Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. In fact the Pope says, “God’s justice is his mercy.” If we want to be like Christ, if we want to share his Divine Mercy, we cannot exclude, we cannot judge, we cannot condemn. First mercy! Then when that person that we welcome has a genuine encounter with Christ and his Divine Mercy, they are offered “a new chance to look at [themselves], convert, and believe.” We are called to welcome people not on our terms or even on their terms, but on God’s terms, which will always be mercy. But we must be agents of that mercy. Each of us must be, like Christ our Lord and our God, the face of the Father’s mercy.