Journey into Mercy.
This Lent, Pope Francis invites us to engage in God’s mercy in a new and life giving way. You can simply type in “Pope Francis’ message for Lent,” or go to the Vatican website at the following address: vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/papa-francesco_20151004_messaggio-quaresima2016.html
He calls forth two aspects of mercy that must always be united. First, we must know we are “poor beggars” in need of God’s mercy and secondly, we are called “to become merciful in turn.” Pope Francis unites the forgiveness of sins with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
How can we more deeply engage in God’s mercy at St. Mary?
As we prepared for this season of Lent, Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) kept coming to mind. It provides the image of God our Father running out to us. We encounter the God who loves and watches for us.
In our hall, we will have a copy of Rembrandt’s rendering of the moment the son and the father embrace. Spend some time looking at the picture. Let nothing get in the way of God’s embrace.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now for the rest of the story.” God running toward us with love and mercy must cause us to see others with mercy and love. While Pope Francis is known to be kind and loving, he is quite severe in this side of the challenge. He says, those who “consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power, not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow.”
Are we blind to the needs of others? This Lent we will be celebrating Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl drive. And yes, we have a financial goal. Yet, the more important reality is to reflect on the very people who we are to “help” as our brothers and sisters. To recognize in their financial need, our neediness for God as well.
In my experience, I don’t actively think I am “rich” and don’t care about the poor. My temptation is to believe I cannot really do anything about all of the problems in the world. I either do nothing or I try to narrow my focus to something where I can “feel” like I can make a difference. This points to where I am poor. I am called to be that small child who brings two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 (John 6:8). To give what I have to the Lord and trust God will do with it as God needs.
Our Journey into Mercy is to be a double journey. A journey into experiencing God’s mercy and a journey into trust that God will use my gifts to God’s potential and not mine.
Let us help one another on both of these journeys.
In Christ, Fr David