With Lent less than a week away, longtime pastor/writer encourages Catholics to take it personally
by Msgr. Charles McGlinn
Pope Francis stands out among all church leaders — or world leaders, for that matter — in his unequivocal call to everyone to understand the plight of the poor and suffering of this world, and to respond with mercy and justice.
Whether he is speaking about the poor living in the squalor of the barrios of his native Argentina or the plight of the refugees from Syria, his call to us is both to see the face of Jesus in those who experience the dehumanization and daily pain of displacement, poverty and hunger, and to bring the face of Jesus to these who are also the children of God, made in his own image and infinitely beloved by their Redeemer.
Mercy is nothing more or less than the unconditional love that Jesus has for every human being on the planet and that same love that we are to have for all our brothers and sisters who share this world with us.
I believe that this is the core message of the Gospel, as well as the untiring call of our Holy Father. It all stems from who God is, and who we are as human beings — God’s children, redeemed by his Son.
This message spills over in all aspects of our spiritual and religious lives. It is at the heart of all genuine spirituality.
How do you relate to your family members, to your neighbors, to your church, to the broader community, to our world? Indeed, if this mercy is not at the center of these relationships, or if we are not at least trying to make it so, then our spirituality and our religiosity is unreal.
I believe that mercy is a difficult virtue to put into effect in our lives, unless we have ourselves experienced the mercy and love of Jesus personally.
Have you seen the face of Jesus or felt his mercy when you were alone, or frightened, or in pain, or terrified of the future?
Did you feel his presence when you were out of work, or when a loved one was terribly ill?
Did you only experience emptiness or aloneness when you tried to pray when you were in some personal turmoil or crisis?
“Come to me,” he tells us, “all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.”
Are you able to hear these words of Jesus and take them personally?
Perhaps we sometimes think that my problems don’t matter, I am not worthy of the mercy, the forgiveness, the concern of our infinite God.
Perhaps we need to have greater faith in what Jesus did for us on Calvary. If you look at a crucifix and do not take it personally, you have missed the point.
He died for you. Take it personally.
Faith is not just a feeling. Faith, at its heart, is a decision.
We decide whether or not we accept Jesus’ personal, irrevocable love for us.
Once we experience, internally, that love and mercy of Jesus for us, perhaps we can extend that same love and mercy to everyone else.