by Msgr. Charles McGlinn
Special to The Leaven
Last year on Dec. 8, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Mercy and opened the Holy Door in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. This Holy Door was an invitation for each of us to enter the year reflecting on the divine mercy of God in our lives and committing ourselves to grow in mercy for others in our thoughts and actions.
This special jubilee year ended with the solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20.
For the Year of Mercy, the Holy Father urged the whole church to engage in special programs and activities whereby we express the mercy of God to others. Our archbishop asked every Catholic and all of the parishes, schools and religious education programs in the archdiocese to participate and respond to this special call of Pope Francis.
The special motto for this year is “Merciful like the Father.” God is infinitely merciful. Mercy is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality revealed in God’s loving actions in each of our lives.
Who can say that he has not been touched by the mercy of God when we see the multiple blessings we enjoy — the blessings of life, faith, forgiveness, health, family, work, leisure and the multiple spiritual and material blessings we receive each day of our lives? As we are the recipients of the mercy of God, we are to be dispensers of mercy to others.
The Holy Father calls us to open our eyes to the misery of the world, to the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity. He calls us to renew in our activities the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead, counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and dead.
A good question to ask is: “How do I show mercy to others?” What is my attitude toward the homeless, the poor, the immigrant, the imprisoned? How do I react when I am offended by my neighbor?
In my home and family, do I always show mercy in my words and actions, or do I try to “get even” when my feelings are hurt? Do my politics reflect an openness and merciful attitude toward others, or a selfishness and close-mindedness toward others who are different from me?
Mercy is found in the heart. We all at times have negative feelings toward others, and sometimes for good reason.
But mercy is a decision we consciously make. It is a rising above, the taking of the high road, a decision to follow after Jesus despite our negativity.
Jesus came to reveal the love of the Father. Everything he did or said — his teachings, his parables, his actions — speak of his mercy.
From his words to the woman caught in adultery, to the good thief hanging next to him on Calvary, Jesus reveals the Father’s love for us in his own redeeming love. His supreme act of love on the cross demonstrates the extent of the Father’s love for us: “He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32).
As Jesus was dying on the cross, he looked down to those who put him there — and that included each of us because of our sins — and prayed, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34).
Our God is Divine Mercy.