“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.
The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” — Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)
The call to be a part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is not just for lay people. It is for all of God’s children: young and old, rich and poor, and lay and ordained. True mercy cares not.
We know well the parables that speak of mercy, such as the Lost Sheep and The Prodigal Son (Lk 15:1-32). We also know that in answer to Peter’s question of how often one should forgive, Jesus replied “seventy times seven times” (Mt 18:22). One finds at the center of these scriptural passages the full meaning of the Gospel: Mercy is a power that overcomes all things.
Every Christian knows well the prayer that speaks to mercy and forgiveness given by our Lord himself: “Our Father, who art in heaven… .”
Our faith teaches that mercy is not just an action of God; it is the criteria by which God’s true children will be made known.
In his homily on the third Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis reminded the Christian faithful that following Jesus requires a radical conversion of heart. Following him also requires prayer to him, celebration of him in the sacraments and imitation of him through what the Gospels teach; all of which define the basics of Christian life.
To imitate Jesus requires one to enter into the mystery of Jesus, but without prayer (and the sacraments), the Christian can never know Jesus.
In response to a question from a Pharisee inquiring which of the laws was the greatest, Jesus replied that the first law is to love God with all one’s heart, soul and mind. And the second law was similar in that one should love his neighbor as himself.
“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:34-40). The Lord’s prayer is a prayer of repentance, conversion and reconciliation which helps the faithful live by these two commandments; which is the Great Commandment.
Are these teachings only for others to practice? As Jesus himself modeled and our Holy Father demonstrates daily, mercy is the foundation of the church’s life. The church’s very trustworthiness is exhibited by how well it models mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
During this extraordinary year, let us open the door — and our hearts — to God’s mercy. Let us truly pray during this Jubilee Year of Mercy to be transformed by God’s love and compassion so that we may in turn reflect that love and compassion to others.
Tammy Flippo is a parishioner of St. Aloysius Church in PeWee Valley, Ky.