The Jubilee Year of Mercy opens in Rome on Tuesday. Here, Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, considers mercy as the bridge which connects God to humanity.
In our modern world we see so many signs of the efforts of men and women to master challenges and problems.
The remarkable progress in science and technology, the tremendous advances in medicine, our capacity to build taller buildings, wider roads, and to travel and use modern means of communication, have brought our beautiful world to become a global village.
We are proud of our achievements and resistant to admit weakness or failure.
Pope Francis is inviting all people of goodwill to celebrate a Year of Mercy from 8 December 2015 until Christ the King 20th November 2016. The Year will begin fifty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, which introduced a new epoch in the Church’s life.
Modern people are so proud of their achievements that we find it hard to admit failure. Yet, because we were all sinners, Jesus came as the face of the Father’s mercy, inviting us to realise our true need of mercy and forgiveness. Rather than pushing aside our weakness, we are invited to know that God is near.
By looking on Jesus, we can see mercy as the bridge that connects God and people, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved despite our sinfulness.
The pressures of modern living, the ceaseless activity, the challenges and responsibilities of families, workers and leaders alike leave little time for reflection.
The Year of Mercy helps us to know that God is near. He wishes to use the medicine of mercy, rather than the arms of severity. Jesus invites us to know that we are forgiven, that God’s mercy which endures forever reminds us that mercy will always be greater than any sin. No one can place limits on the love of God, who is ever ready to forgive.
The Year of Mercy urges us not to be afraid of our sins and weaknesses, but to turn to God and be forgiven. The beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation offered more regularly this year will be a sign that like the prodigal son we are constantly in the Father’s love.
God is a father, who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. More than this, Pope Francis in his letter for the Jubilee invites us to be part of this great movement of mercy and compassion: having known God’s forgiveness.
“We are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” The Pope wishes this Jubilee to be a time when the witness of believers might be stronger and more effective. God has shown his power in mercy and forgiveness, now he invites us to practise works of mercy.
As members of the Church we allow mercy to reawaken us to new life and hope, to bring into daily living the invitation Jesus gives: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
He asks us not to judge and not to condemn, to open our hearts to those on the fringes of society. We are invited to reawaken our conscience, which has grown dull in the face of routine, poverty and busyness.
Specifically, we are invited to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.
Similarly important are the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill and pray for the living and the dead.
There are many opportunities in daily living: We are invited to be the means of consolation and encouragement to others, remembering that mercy will always be greater than any sin and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.
May this Year of Mercy and compassion be a new invitation to hope and to seek out and encourage our sisters and brothers.
- By + Denis J. Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne
Image: The Telegraph London, here.