Spirituality for Today – July 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 12

A Time for Mercy

Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

An photo of Pope Francis I.

Among the most powerful and loving of the divine actions with which humanity has been given the capacity to perform is mercy. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015), Pope Francis I has decreed a Holy Year titled, Jubilee of Mercy to be celebrated until the Feast of Christ the King (November 26, 2016). Like mercy itself, each diocese is celebrating this Holy Year in its own particular way. Like mercy itself, each one of us can revel in it and bestow it in our own particular circumstance. For Pope Francis, the effects of God's mercy gave him the courage and the confidence needed to affirm his election and all that it would require of him.

This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. This is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ and I accept in a spirit of penance.

– Pope Francis I

As Catholics on a common course, we look to Pope Francis to be the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church in this age. We respect his humble spirit and penitential attitude in facing the great task before him. In recognition of the multitude of frailties that beset our human nature, dependence on the mercy of God opens our minds and hearts allowing wisdom, compassion, and charity to enter.

Around this time last year, the Confederate battle flag was removed from a flagpole located in front of the State House in Charleston, South Carolina – where the Civil War began. The event was occasioned by the murder of eight, African-American members of a church Bible Study group by a white racist. Many citizens of Charleston looked at the removal of the flag to be an illustration of how much of modern society is in wont of kindness, healing, and mercy. I recall this event as a powerful sign of the need for a Jubilee Year of Mercy. One might feel a sense of amazement that an allegedly civilized society can choose to identify itself in a manner that celebrates vileness, indecency, and hatred. Incredibly, a significance percentage of our society gives witness to it. If unaltered, I cringe to think of what the future holds.

Pope Francis has thrown down the gauntlet for change and repentance. The Sacrament of Reconciliation sets a beautiful pattern for this process. Acknowledgement of sin begins the work of making a better society. Of course, this presupposes that one has an awareness of just what good and evil means and which modes of living reflect one or the other. Because so many people today have been trained in the philosophy of moral relativism, it is problematic that these persons have a clear understanding of right and wrong. A lengthy evangelical effort might be a precursor to conversion. Once this happens, an authentic penitential attitude can occur. All of this depth of knowledge and of feeling evokes a longing for God's mercy. God's mercy makes a wholeness of being and a holiness of conscience within a person.

I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the
Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely.
I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my
whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous Presence.

– Christopher Columbus

Columbus spoke of the enjoyment of God's mercy and love. This joy of God's merciful love puts the "jubilee" into the Holy Year of the Jubilee of Mercy. Change – the ability to change from walking around like a raw nerve to being a witness to mercy is the goal of this year. When one can not only appreciate the happiness of being a giver as well as a receiver of mercy, but also become devoted to the divine power that is the unfailing source of mercy, then humanity has the potentiality and the capacity of making a new world. Before we dismiss this thought in a wave of skepticism, remember that a large number of beliefs and actions, once thought unthinkable, have taken center stage. First, if we want the world to change, we have to live the change we seek. An act of mercy and love motivated by faith in God can affect more conversion in people than many homilies, books, or programs. Mercy does not preclude justice but invites real reclamation of souls. Hagiographies contain numerous examples of the power of mercy to transform a person. This year, and every year, I pray that we choose to exercise this power within our lives and to rejoice in it.