Sunday, November 20, 2016

One Last Act of Mercy

“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Today on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Year of Mercy comes to its conclusion.  It was an exceptional year of grace that the Holy Father gifted us with, and we end it by hearing about one of the most exceptional acts of mercy our Lord ever did.  All year long, Pope Francis has been guiding us and challenging us to be a more merciful church, so before we meditate on this gospel passage, I want to outline the pope’s best tweets from the Year of Mercy.  Each on its own could fill a Holy Hour with meditation:

-God’s mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward our neighbor.

-It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in one’s life; whoever receives it must also become a sign and instrument for others.

-God never tires of offering His forgiveness each time we ask for it.

-Mercy can truly contribute to the building up of a more humane world.

-An easy prayer to say every day: “Lord, I am a sinner: come with your mercy”.

-Mercy does not just mean being a “good person” nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus.

-A merciful heart has the courage to leave comforts behind and to encounter others, embracing everyone.

-No one can be excluded from the mercy of God. The Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.

-Mercy is the path uniting God with man, for it opens the heart to the hope of an eternal love

-Even in the worst situation of life, God waits for me, God wants to embrace me, God expects me.

That last quote goes to the very heart of today’s gospel.  Can you think of a worse situation than what the repentant thief found himself in on that first Good Friday?  We don’t know what he did.  We don’t know how grave his crime was.  We don’t even know if he did any good in his life.  But right there, on his cross, next to the crucified Lord, none of that mattered.  In the worst moment of his life, he turned to Jesus.  And there, even as he was dying, as he struggled for every precious breath, Jesus assured the repentant thief that he would soon be in paradise.  There is nothing more powerful than the mercy of God.  It turns thieves into saints.

We celebrate Christ as King today.  We worship him not on a golden throne but on the throne of the cross because it is precisely at his most vulnerable moment that our Lord was truly powerful: a King who forgives, a King who thirsts for us, a King who gives his life for us.  The true measure of power is not in how we rule but in how we serve.   So we bring this Year of Mercy to a fitting conclusion gazing up at the cross at our Lord and King.   And perhaps our prayer this day is a prayer of mercy like that of this blessed thief:  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”