Cardinal John Dew
Pope Francis has invited the church to enter into a Year of Mercy, beginning 8 December this year, marking the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council under Pope Paul VI on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1965. Pope Saint John XXIII had formally opened that council on 11 October 1962 with the prophetic call ‘the Church prefers the medicine of mercy to the arm of severity’.
It is now time, 50 years later, to take these words to the centre of the Church’s life and mission. The theme of the coming year of mercy is, ‘To be merciful as the heavenly Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36). The Gospel of Luke is sometimes described as ‘the gospel of mercy’ or ‘the gospel of compassion’. In it, we find an invitation to enter into the heart and mind of Jesus Christ, who is the face of the Father’s mercy, and to live that mercy in our own lives.
At the recent meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we prayed and reflected on this theme as we planned for how we could live it in the Archdiocese this coming year. Some Council members shared their reflections.
Fr James Lyons, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart parish priest, writes, ‘Pope Francis’ deep desire is that the year will be steeped in Mercy.’ By that he means that no-one will find themselves outside the goodness and tenderness of God.
Patsy Buttle, newly-appointed Kaikoura Lay Pastoral Leader, says, ‘For me, it means opening our church doors and hearts to all with a sense of joy… welcome home! This is where you belong.’ TCI’s Chris Duthie-Jung adds, ‘If we truly grasped that we are forgiven, and that God’s love is that gratuitous, then we would look at each other completely differently.’
Paul Alsford reflects, ‘Mercy resonates with healing. We live in a world that cries out for healing. The Year of Mercy is a call for us to show God’s mercy through our actions – love, hospitality and bringing compassion into people’s lives. My prayer for the upcoming Year of Mercy is a time where all our lives are touched with God’s merciful love – a love of healing and joy.’
Mercy comes from a rich biblical tradition and has many meanings. Br Doug Dawick finds, ‘A clearer word for mercy is kindness. God has been accepting, forgiving, encouraging, generous and loving towards me and I am invited to be the same to others and simply show kindness towards them’. This is echoed by Samoan Chaplaincy Team Leader Mika Teofilo, ‘We all believe in the Gospel but what does that mean? Making the Gospel practical through our attitude and everyday life, showing compassion, kindness and forgiveness.’
Jonny Boon says, ‘Mercy is always choosing to focus on the good, the divine touch of our creator in people. It helps me to forgive others as I trust that God has forgiven me. Mercy transforms our relationships with others because it sees the best and believes in our ability to be more Christ like’.
The Year of Mercy extends to all people. The Bishop’s Committee for Interfaith Relations has taken special note of No 23 of Misericordiae Vultus (the Pope’s bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy) inviting Jews and Muslims to join in the reflection on mercy in their traditions. This will take concrete action, involving young people working together on some of the ‘Corporal Works of Mercy’.
These are just some of the deep reflections the Pastoral Council shared at their recent meeting. Each one of us has a treasured memory of an experience of the mercy of God in our life. The year ahead gives us a renewed opportunity to share that mercy, and to be ‘merciful as the heavenly Father is merciful’.