Year of Mercy
Fr Paul Martin SM Assistant Provincial
On 8 December we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This has been instituted by Pope Francis to begin on the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II. In his letter Misericordiae Vultus (Face of Mercy) he outlines why we are having this year and places before us some challenges.
The Pope is very concerned that in our modern society mercy seems to be disappearing from our thinking and action. Our fixation on justice means there seems to be little space for mercy and forgiveness. He challenges us as Christians to think about our own approach to this.
Love is the heart of the life of the Trinity. It is this love that then gives expression to the mercy of God. Throughout God’s relationship with people in the Old Testament there are many examples of his mercy for his people, especially when they strayed from him.
This is seen even more clearly in Jesus Christ. The love of the Trinity is expressed in Jesus’ love for all people, and therefore his mercy. His love and mercy is never conditional on what the person does; it is freely given. The parables of the Prodigal Son or the Good Shepherd are examples.
We have a deep need for God’s mercy. In order to be merciful ourselves we need to acknowledge we are sinners. This can be fraught in our modern age, which doesn’t like the idea of sin. We have focused rightly on the love of God, but we also need to recognise we need God’s mercy. We can’t be compassionate to others if we haven’t received and experienced that love and compassion from God ourselves.
The Church is therefore called to reflect this mercy of God in her life and to announce it to the world. The focus on justice is one step, but without mercy life becomes fruitless and sterile. People may need to be punished for doing wrong but they also need to have mercy shown them when this is completed. The Church is the face of Christ to the world and wherever the Church is present the mercy of the Father must also be evident.
The Pope presents some attitudinal challenges to us:
The Lord asks us not to judge and not to condemn, we must accept the good in every person.
Jesus asks us to forgive and give, be generous with others.
Ask for God’s assistance – touched by his compassion we become more compassionate
Open our hearts to those living on the fringes of society.
- There are some practical actions presented:
Pilgrimage to the Holy Door of Churches
During Lent meditate on the merciful face of Jesus
Focus on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially during Lent.
He also reminds us we are judged by how well we have carried out the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy. (See page xxx.)
The final reflection is on Mary, the mother of Mercy, and how well she lived this and so inspires us, along with the holy men and women who have gone before us.
The Pope’s letter is worth reading (www.im.va/content/gdm/en/giubileo/lettera.html). The challenge for us is to take this year seriously and to reflect on our lives both personally and as a Church community. So many in our world are searching and Pope Francis’ focus on Mercy, expressed in this Year of Mercy, may well be another way the Holy Spirit can touch the hearts of God’s people.