Prayer for the Year of Mercy
Almighty God, you reveal your love for us in your Son, Jesus Christ, who is the face of your mercy. Pour out your mercy upon us that we may bring to every person your goodness and tenderness — signs of your Kingdom, present among us. May we become merciful like you, Father, are merciful. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
November 20, 2016
Solemnity of Christ the King
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to a close, I am struck by what a gift it was to have experienced this period of special reflection on the inexhaustible mercy of God. In calling the Church into this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has shown himself to be greatly attuned to a profound need of the Church and the world. How deeply the People of God long to encounter God’s mercy anew! And how desperately our world needs an outpouring of God’s mercy for all!
Of particular significance during this Jubilee Year were the various Holy Doors, thresholds through which the faithful were called to pass, symbolic of their desire to enter into the heart of God – the source of all mercy and compassion. The Holy Doors were a special gift of this Jubilee Year, and they give us a way to reflect on this year of God’s great mercy.
As part of my duties as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, I was in Rome on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica and inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I was deeply moved to witness Pope Francis pass through the Holy Door, followed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. As I passed through the Holy Door moments later with brother bishops from around the world, the intentions of our Diocese passed through with me, as I prayed that the Year of Mercy would be for all of us a special time of encounter with the tenderness and compassion of God.
In addition to St. Peter’s and the other Papal Basilicas, Pope Francis called for Holy Doors at every Cathedral and other designated churches around the world. When I returned to the Diocese, I had the privilege of blessing and opening our own Holy Door in the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King. I was astonished by the number of the faithful who joined in this celebration, standing shoulder to shoulder in McNally Hall, then passing through the Holy Door in waves until the entire church was full. It was a tremendous experience of God’s mercy for all. Many busloads of Parishioners from across the Diocese made pilgrimages throughout the year to pass through the Holy Door, and many more visited the Sacred Heart Parishes designated as pilgrimage sites for the Jubilee Year. What a testament to the deep desire for mercy that exists among the People of God!
In his letter outlining the jubilee indulgence associated with passing through a Holy Door, Pope Francis took the extraordinary step of naming the threshold of each jail cell a Holy Door of Mercy. Pause for a moment to consider what this must have signified to prisoners – those confined not only by their physical surroundings but also by the circumstances that brought them to prison. God’s mercy is truly endless, available to each and every one of us, without exception, condition, or limit. As Pope Francis often expresses, God never tires of forgiving; it is we who tire of asking for God’s mercy. What a beautiful testament this is to the liberating force of divine mercy!
God’s merciful compassion extends also in a special way to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the vulnerable and those on the margins. In Hamilton’s downtown core, a special ministry of mercy was realized this year, when St. Patrick Parish and neighbouring St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School partnered to open the De Mazenod Door. This outreach effort, named for St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, extends compassion and welcome to the needy through meals, conversation, and friendship – it is a door through which the corporal works of mercy flow! “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35) The De Mazenod Door itself was declared a Holy Door of Mercy for the balance of the Jubilee Year, and I pray that God’s graces will continue to bless all of those who seek his mercy there.
I was also very impressed to see students in the Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board who created their own doors of mercy – old wooden doors, taken and painted with various themes, scripture verses and other expressions of God’s mercy. These doors were featured in our Year of Mercy youth rally, the school board’s Bishop’s Dinner, and various other events – constant reminders that God’s mercy is open to all who seek it.
The Church provides us with so many rich and beautiful symbols through which the mystery of God can be encountered, but this image of the door endures. Our world is too often filled with doors that are closed. But we know by faith that no door is closed so tightly that Christ cannot open it. “Knock, and the door will be opened for you.”(Matthew 7:7)
At Pentecost, fear led the disciples to lock the door to the upper room. Nevertheless, Christ entered and stood among them, offering the gift of his peace – his first gift to the Church. As the apostles were sent forth to evangelize the world, let us also go out bringing God’s mercy to all! Let us continually enter more fully into the mystery of Christ, who is himself the door of the Father’s mercy – the way we all must travel to enter into the saving mystery of God.
At the close of this extraordinary year, we turn to Mary, the Mother of Mercy. Through her intercession may we be led to ever closer union with her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father’s gift of mercy to the world.
Sincerely in Christ and Mary Immaculate,
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
YEAR OF MERCY IN SACRED HEART
FIRST FRIDAYS PILGRIMAGE DATES:
FEB. 5, APR. 1, MAY 6, JUNE 3, SEPT. 2, OCT. 7
8:00 A.M. MASS (English)
After Mass: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
ALL DAY ADORATION
6:30 P.M. The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy
Litany of Divine Mercy
Prayers of Praise
Prayers and Blessing
7:00 P.M. MASS (Polish)
After Mass: Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
An Act of consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
After: Songs and prayers till 10:00 P.M.
10:00 – 11:00 P.M. SILENCE; Individual prayer
24 Hours for the Lord – March 4-5th
8:00 AM Mass (English)
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
ADORATION ALL DAY
5:30 PM Confession
6:00 PM The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy
Litany of Divine Mercy
6:30 PM Station of the Cross
7:00 PM Mass (English)
Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
An act of Consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy
After: Songs and prayers till 10:00 PM
10:00 – 11:00 PM
SILENCE: individual prayer
8:00 – 9:00 AM
SILENCE: individual prayer
9:00 AM Mass (Polish)
The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy
Songs and prayers
5:00 PM MASS (English)
Indulgences YEAR OF MERCY:
Jubilee indulgence gain those who:
- Cross through the Gate of Mercy
To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.
A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day under the usual conditions :
- Participate in Sacramental Confession and receive the Holy Communion
- Participate in the Mass
- Pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
- Have the interior disposition of complete detachment from all sin. To get a plenary indulgence we have to be completely detached from sin, affection for sin, even venial sins. This is the most difficult condition for obtaining the indulgence. That the requirement is not freedom from all sin. Rather, it is freedom from attachment to sin; that is, that there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce.
- Inside the church, recite the creed and reflect on God’s infinite mercy
(this may be: listening to sermons, reading of the passage of papal teaching or works of saints such. Diary of St. Faustina, a few minutes thinking about God’s mercy.).
In addition, the Jubilee indulgence will benefit everyone who themselves perform one or more works of mercy for the soul or in the body.
Partial indulgence: performance provided action and contrition of heart (a form of repentance). We can gain indulgences for themselves or for the dead.
The sick and the elderly who can not go to the Gate of Mercy can gain indulgence in any church (hospital chapel) by taking part in the Mass. and even at home, if you take Holy Communion. (Condition plenary indulgence) – and participate in community prayer.
HAVE MERCY, FOR GOD’S SAKE! (THE YEAR OF MERCY)
The coming Year of Mercy is such a powerful instrument of grace of our loving God that we would be very foolish to let this opportunity pass us by; so it is imperative that we learn what it is and make use of it to change/convert ourselves and our Church Community. So this series of materials (comments and reflections) are intended to help us in this regard. The plan here is very simple and straight-forward. First we will consider briefly what the Year of Mercy is and what it means. Secondly, we will be given the Vatican’s official prayer for this great year and asked to use it often in our prayer lives for the coming year. And lastly for every remaining week in the Year of Mercy, you will receive a (usually) short reflection for each week for our personal thinking, meditation, prayer, and any dialogue(s) we wish to set up. May God’s loving mercy and our sharing of that mercy with each other make each and all of us a new People of God that the Risen Lord desires. Introduction Mercy, especially divine mercy, is needed today more than ever, and so thank God, we will have the opportunity to cultivate it during this year – and afterwards! In Rome on March 23, 2015, during a Penitential Celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Pope Francis announced the celebration of an Extraordinary Holy Year which is dedicated to Mercy (God’s mercy). On Divine Mercy Sunday (April 12, 2015) (a Sunday established by Saint John Paul II earlier), Francis officially and solemnly proclaimed this Year of Mercy which will begin on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and will end on November 20, 2016, on the Solemnity of Christ the King; “the pontiff powerfully called on the entire Catholic Church to refashion itself as a place not of judgment or condemnation but of pardon and merciful love” (Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter Vatican correspondent, “Francis announces wide indulgences for mercy Jubilee, grants Lefebvrites faculties,” September 1, 2015). It will be an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and “the Holy Father, Pope Francis, invites us to live out the great Jubilee of Mercy, modeling upon the merciful example of the Father [-Mother], as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ” (Living With Christ, December 2015). During the Holy Year the Sunday readings will derive from the Gospel of Luke (Year C) who is known as the “evangelist of mercy” (Gretchen R. Crowe, journalist and reporter with Our Sunday Visitor). The Jubilee year of Mercy also takes place on the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of Vatican Council II in 1965; “this is of great significance, for it impels the Church to continue the work begun at Vatican II” (a Holy See Communiqué). We will do more with this at another time. “Merciful like the Father [-Mother]” is the official motto of the Year of Mercy. Now a little bit of background on Jubilee Years, extraordinary ones as well as ordinary ones. “While an ordinary Jubilee year is celebrated every 25 years, an extraordinary Jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of significant importance. “The Holy Year will be an ‘extraordinary jubilee year,’ meaning it falls outside the regular rhythm of jubilees celebrated every quarter century” (Crowe). The last ordinary Jubilee took place in 2000 while the last two extraordinary jubilees occurred in 1933 and 1983 to celebrate the 1900th and 1950th anniversaries of Christ’s death and resurrection. Biblically, the celebration of jubilees stems from the ancient Jewish tradition when jubilee years were celebrated every 50 years. “Referenced in the Book of Leviticus [in the Bible](see chapter 25), the ‘sacred’ jubilee year was a time meant to restore equality among the children of Israel. The Catholic tradition of jubilees began in 1300 under the reign of Pope Boniface VIII, who decided jubilees would be celebrated once every 100 years. This was changed to once every 25 years in 1475 to allow for every generation to celebrate at least one Holy Year.” (Crowe) Francis’ Theology of Mercy “The Church as a witness of mercy is central to the Pope’s program to be a poor Church for the poor … Mercy is the central issue of his pontificate and a great challenge, especially for our rich churches in the North.” (Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the author of Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, the spokesperson for Pope Francis, at the Episcopal Lecture given at Boston College on May 1, 2015) Francis has been very clear that wherever there are Christians, there must be an oasis of mercy. Here is a list of comments by Pope Francis that have some bearing on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy (they are in no particular order):
- We begin by noting that “throughout his pontificate, mercy has been a major theme close to the Pope’s heart; his episcopal motto – Miserando atque eligendo [Latin which equals ‘lowly but chosen’]– refers to the merciful gaze of Christ towards Saint Matthew upon choosing him” (Zenit Organization).
- “This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”
- “I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, so that they can animate it as a new step in the path of the Church in its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person.”
- “I am convinced that the whole Church can find in this Jubilee the joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to each man and each woman of our time. We entrust it to the Mother of Mercy [Mary], so that She may turn towards us Her gaze and watch over our path.”
- “I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this year in the light of the Lord’s words: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).”TO BE CONTINUED Resurrection Ministries (Including the former Resurrection Centre),(firstname.lastname@example.org)
- P.S. As this material was finished and ready to be sent you, I ran across a resource that you might want to get. It is the Catholic Update issue for November 2015 which is titled “Encounter Divine Mercy; Advent Reflections With Saint Faustina,” compiled by Catherine Odell; this is published by Liguori Publications (www.ligouri.org under Advent and Christmas). It gives us a good way to celebrate the Advent Season during the Year of Mercy. Saint Faustina was a nun, with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland. She had many visions of the Risen Lord but one vision gave rise to an image that came to be known as “Jesus of Divine Mercy.” Pope Saint John Paul II promoted devotion to Jesus of Divine Mercy.
HAVE MERCY, FOR GOD’S SAKE! (THE YEAR OF MERCY) (#2)
Pope Francis’ Official Letter of September 1, 2015 On September 1, 2015, the Pope issued an official letter, “Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the President of the Pontifical Council For The Promotion of the New Evangelization At The Approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy September 1, 2015”! This immediately tells us that the Year of Mercy is part of “the promotion of the new evangelization.” “My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee [The Year of Mercy]. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father[-Mother] who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed.” (Francis in the September 1, 2015 letter – note especially the second sentence here) Also “it is indeed my wish that the jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father [-Mother], whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective” (Pope Francis in his September 1, 2015 letter). So “Pope Francis has announced he is widely expanding the traditional indulgences available to Catholics during his upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, opening them to anyone who performs just one of the traditional works of mercy and to prisoners who pray at chapels available to them” (McElwee). “The letter, published by the Vatican in seven languages [Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish]is striking for the global scope the pontiff envisions the Jubilee Year taking, with availability for pardon and mercy seemingly available to all… He wants the holy year to be ‘for all true believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.’ He then offers an indulgence, or remission of the punishment for sin, for those that during the year are able to make a pilgrimage to the papal basilicas in Rome or to their local cathedral. [For people in Hamilton Diocese the Cathedral of Christ the King in Hamilton City and for those in the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Cathedral is Saint Michael in Toronto City; however since the Toronto Cathedral is being renovated, it is for the near future not one to which people can make a “pilgrimage”; the churches for this, then, in the Toronto Archdiocese are: St. Paul’s Basilica (Toronto’s oldest parish), St. Patrick’s (Toronto), Merciful Redeemer (Mississauga), St. Anthony of Padua (Bramalea), St. Theresa’s Shrine of the Little Flower (Scarborough), Martyrs’ Shrine (Midland), and St. Patrick’s (Brampton). In Hamilton Diocese, as well as the Cathedral, the “pilgrimage” churches are six Sacred Heart Parishes in Hamilton City, Kitchener, Paris, Guelph, Georgetown, and Walkerton – the Sacred Heart of Jesus being a powerful symbol of mercy.]As is traditional those making those pilgrimages will be asked to make confession, celebrate the Mass, and pray for the pope’s intentions… Granting of special indulgences for the remission of sins during Catholic holy years is a traditional practice, but in the past normally required a visit to one or more of the papal basilicas in Rome. Francis’ letter greatly expands the availability of the practice.” (McElwee) The Holy Father wants these actions to be seen “as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion … It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation [Confession] and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and the entire world.” (Francis in the September 1, 2015 letter) (emphasis added) The pope goes on to state that “living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial [the sick and the lonely who are not able to go to Rome for the indulgences], receiving Communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication [like social media], will be for them the means of obtaining the jubilee indulgence” (September 1, 2015 letter, emphasis added). Please note this because this goes beyond what we traditionally do regarding holy years and their graces/indulgences. For the sick or elderly unable to travel, we are called by God to let them know about this option. The pontiff also extends this in another way for all of us, i.e., “the pontiff also extends the possibility for forgiveness of sin to anyone who performs one of the traditional spiritual or corporal works of mercy during the year” (McElwee). “I have asked the Church in this jubilee year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus Himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the jubilee indulgence.” (Francis in his September 1, 2015 letter) For those in jail, the Holy Father has also made it possible for them to obtain the jubilee indulgence. “They may obtain the indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father [-Mother] each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.” (Pope Francis in the September 1, 2015 letter) (The “Holy Door” is a reference to the Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning with the opening of the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on December 8, 2015) “Furthermore, the jubilee indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the communion of saints, pray for them that the merciful face of the Father [-Mother]free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.” (Francis in his September 1, 2015 letter) Please note that in all these suggestions Francis is being very merciful because he makes it so easy for any Catholic to receive the jubilee indulgence! So in the spirit of his beautiful powerful words above, we can extend this basic consideration/approach as Cardinal Vincent Nichols does in his new book, A Pilgrimage Companion For the Year of Mercy 2015-2016 (another great resource available from Alive Publishing): “We can contemplate the mercy of God in the simple actions of others: the kind acceptance of our failing efforts, the comfort we receive in weakness, the encouragement to try again, the forgiveness offered out of a shared humanity, the quiet word that helps to lift a veil of depression. These merciful moments set us on our feet again. In them we are touched by that hidden presence of the Holy Spirit.” (Nichols) And lest that we as Catholics become too smug, we need to remember that mercy can and is expressed outside the Church too! Here we recall the following words of the martyr Oscar Romero written a few years ago: “Outside the Church, anyone who struggles for justice, anyone who makes just demands in an unjust atmosphere, is working for the Kingdom of God. This person may not be a Christian [remember Ghandi?]. The Church does not have a monopoly on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God goes beyond the borders of the Church … (Through The Year With Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations, translated by Irene B. Hodgson)
HAVE MERCY, FOR GOD’S SAKE! (THE YEAR OF MERCY) (#3)
Pope Francis’ Official Letter of September 1, 2015 (Continued) Pope Francis did one other thing that embodied mercy and that is a bit startling in order to impress upon us how very crucial and critical mercy is in today’s world. The pontiff “decreed the full validity during the [Year of Mercy]of the sacrament of confession celebrated by priests of the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X. ‘This jubilee year of mercy excludes no one.’ [Francis]” (Pope Francis, “Letter Granting All Priests Faculties to Absolve Sin of Abortion during Year of Mercy” [the letter is the same as the one used above, i.e., that of September 1, 2015], Origins, September 10, 2015. “The Society of Saint Pius X was founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 as a response to objections he and others had to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Members of this group are considered not to be in full communion with Rome, and, in normal circumstances, its priests and bishops cannot exercise Roman Catholic ministry.” (McElwee) This Society widely rejected the changes of Vatican Council II and, in technical terms, it is “schismatic;” thus “in a striking move for Church unity in expressing God’s mercy, the pope has granted the priests of this Society faculties to offer absolution of sins ‘validly and licitly’ to those who approach them for confession” (McElwee). And above you also saw that the Pope granted all priests faculties to absolve people from the sin of abortion during the Year of Mercy. This is another great expression of God’s mercy. In the words of Francis, “one of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father [-Mother]. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve the sin of abortion to those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father [-Mother] who renews all with his [-her]presence.” (Francis) (The letter of September 1, 2015) As part of our understanding of the above, we need to know that “Church law generally requires a priest to have special faculties from his bishop to grant absolution to a person who has procured or helped another to procure an abortion … Pope Francis’ September 1 announcement that priests worldwide will be able to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral practices in the United States and Canada, where most priest already have such authority in the sacrament of reconciliation … Several prelates, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, emphasized that Pope Francis’ action ‘in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion. What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart,’ he said.” (“Letter Granting All Priests Faculties to Absolve Sin of Abortion During Year of Mercy,” Origins) 2 Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany (New York State) expressed the hope that any women who have been involved in an abortion will take advantage of this great opportunity for mercy; “The real news is that there is no need to wait. God is ready to forgive and heal now!” (Scharfwenberger) Francis signs off on his letter of September 1, 2015, and ends it as follows: “Trusting in the Intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I entrust the preparations for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year to her protection.” Do note, as we have already seen, that this year begins on the great Marian feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The present Pope leaves very little to chance! What Is Mercy? The Year of Mercy is going to be such an important year and gift of divine grace that it would be to our benefit to understand as deeply as we can what mercy is and how we can most fully open ourselves up to receive this great gift from our loving God. So let us take a good moment to do this! Cardinal Walter Kasper is very close to our Pope (and he actually often speaks to the world on behalf of Francis) and is a great theologian who has done a lot of work on the theology and spirituality of mercy. Let us now consider what he has to say about mercy. “The precept of mercy applies not only to individual Christians but to the Church as a whole. Many ask: If God is always merciful, why is the Church not the same? Or, why does the Church not seem to be as merciful as God? The question expresses the uneasiness of many Christians … If the Church is a sacrament of God’s love in Christ, it is also a sacrament of God’s mercy. Therefore the command for the Church to be merciful is grounded in the identity of the Church as the Body of Christ.” (Kasper, lecture at Boston College on May 1, 2015) But there is much more to this than the above. Kasper goes on to state that the Church is not only God’s agent for God’s mercy but It is also the object of God’s mercy. And “Christ [on God’s behalf]never tires of forgiving us” (Father Sean Wenger, C.C., pastor and religious writer). Cardinal Kasper goes on to say that the Church “must self-critically and repeatedly ask itself whether it actually lives up to what it is and should be … A Church without charity and mercy would no longer be the Church of Jesus Christ.” (Kasper) And for Kasper mercy is thus “the name of our God” (Kasper, “Mercy is the medicine to heal the wounds of the Church,” The Tablet, November 14, 2015). HAVE
MERCY, FOR GOD’S SAKE! (THE YEAR OF MERCY) (#4) (CONTINUED)
What Is Mercy? (Continued) Because of all that has been said so far, “the message of mercy has far-reaching consequences for the teaching, life and mission of the Church. The worst reproach that can be leveled against the Church – which in fact, often applies to it – is that it does not practice what it proclaims to others … The Church must allow God’s mercy to appear and be realized in its entire life, its concrete structures and even in its laws. [And] mercy opens our eyes to the concrete situation of the other.” (Kasper) So we all “are called to be apostles of mercy” (Wenger) and the Year of Mercy begins with our own personal conversion. Furthermore, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s [-Mother’s]Mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian Faith. In his invitation to us, the Pope invites us to explore Christ’s relationship with God and with the disciples “who learn the ways of mercy by His example and through His parables” (Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration, “Mercy me,” November 2015 – an excellent reflection). A disciple has to experience deeply their own need for mercy so that they are ready to be merciful and to preach to others. “Advent and Christmas-Time are the perfect times to enter this new capacity for mercy, for the Incarnation is what makes it possible” (Marrin). We cannot be Pelagian and therefore the kind of mercy Christ wants us to exercise and incarnate is only possible with God’s help and mercy which “is unconditional and infinite: the very nature of God” (Marrin). And we cannot ever forget that “good people, or those who see themselves as righteous and virtuous are the hardest to convince that they also need mercy,… Those who feel they have never received mercy themselves find it hardest to let God give it to others” (Marrin) – this is the whole point of the parables in Luke 15! “It is the pope’s profound insight that this same resistance to mercy has in many ways come to characterize the institutional Church, paralyzing it from within and limiting its ability to carry out its mission to evangelize. For Francis, if the Church does not reflect God’s mercy, she fails in her mission to share the joy of the Gospel [this is a big point in Joy of the Gospel = Evangelii Gaudium]. The pope believes that by making mercy our highest priority, the Church will uncover the authentic experience of the Gospel that alone can help so many of us know God for the first time and can help move many Catholic bishops from an emphasis on their juridical, doctrinal and hierarchical roles to their primary identity as apostles, shepherds and pastors.” (Marrin) To let this impact on us, we need to remember that this Year of Mercy is not an ordinary jubilee but an extraordinary jubilee: remember that “there are two sorts of Jubilees: ordinary ones which nowadays come around every 25 years, and extraordinary Jubilees, which a pope can proclaim whenever he likes, as Pope Francis did last April ” (John Hooper, Italy and Vatican correspondent for The Economist, “The mercy-spreader,” The World in 2016, published at the end of 2015 by The Economist). This, then, is a very extraordinary Year! In my research of this topic, I ran across some material that I want to share with you because it is very powerful in its straightforwardness and simplicity (but it is not simplistic!). It comes from the magazine, The Companions of the Cross, Fall 2015 edition , and is titled “Divine Mercy” written by Father Bob Bedard, C.C., religious author and founder of The Companions of the Cross religious order). Please follow what he says prayerfully and attentively. Using a dictionary, Father Bedard states that “mercy is kindness over and above what we would ordinarily expect from a very kind person’ … Now God’s mercy has no bounds: [it is everlasting and ‘Christ never tires of forgiving us’ – Wenger]. God’s mercy is far, far greater than the potential you and I have to be sinful … God is not tough at all. God is not! God is a pushover. God is a 2 pushover for a repentant heart. God is a cream puff, just an old softie with a bad memory. That is Who God is. And God wants us to know that … God does not care about our sins [when we want to turn to God]except that they hurt us … Mercy is over and above. It is kindness gone mad.” (Bedard) And this mercy clearly shows up in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. No wonder “we are to show mercy whenever and wherever and to whosoever we meet who need our help” (Marrin)! (emphasis added) What Is Really Happening Here? What we have seen thus far seems too good to be true and we are left wondering if it can truly be so. Is it really like this? What is really happening here (and in what Pope Francis says and does in other areas/matters)? It is fruitful to explore this briefly and we will do this now. In brief, we are dealing with kairos, the biblical notion of God’s appointed time. “Kairos (a Greek word used in the scriptures) refers to a breakthrough moment, an opportunity, an intersection of time and eternity that awakens deeper faith. When Pope Francis was presented to the people of Rome on the evening of his election, it was clear that a kairos moment was at hand. He humbly bowed before the people of God and asked them to pray for him before he blessed them gently with his first pontifical blessing. His humility (refusing to live in a palace), his simplicity (making himself accessible daily to coworkers and crowds of people), and his disarming honesty (preaching daily homilies that address commonplace problems in simple terms) showed the world a new kind of leadership. It has also stirred up hopes for a new way of being Church. But what might that new way look like? Pope Francis’ answer to that question, both in word and deed, has been mercy.” (Father Paul Philibert, O.P., research theologian at Aquinas Institute of Theology in Saint Louis and author, “From Crisis to Kairos: Rediscovering Mercy” in Celebration, October 2015) A key principle here is: “Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love” (Pope Francis) and Christ has to count on us to embody/incarnate that infinite love in His name for others. And this is why “for Pope Francis mercy is the response to the globalisation of indifference” (Kasper, The Tablet) and why we as Christians need to fight this indifference! TO BE CONTINUED Father Fred Scinto, C.R., Resurrection Ministries, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. (email@example.com)