Showing posts with label Pope Francis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Francis. Show all posts

Thursday, March 3, 2016

God's Mercy and Justice

Pope Francis has given us a great gift in declaring this year (December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016) an Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Like Jubilee years of the Old Testament, it is meant to be a time of righting wrongs, or returning things to their proper order, and to rejoice in the good things that God has done. Pope Francis is giving us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of God as merciful, and encouraging all to “be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But what is mercy? Mercy is a willingness to respond to the needs of another, even when the other does not ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ a response. It is a response to the chaos of the other person’s life and help to bring order. It is seeking to put things right.

Too often, mercy is seen as opposed to justice, that it is understood a being permissive. In encountering sin, we might be tempted to act in such a way that might confirm the sin instead of comforting the sinner. That is not true mercy, however. Mercy is the treat the other person with dignity, to call them out of a destructive behavior, and to remind them of the great and loving God we have. God does not wish us to remain in sin, but rather that we come to Him for forgiveness. Justice is giving a person what they deserve, but mercy is always greater than justice. In showing mercy, God displays His power. While we are yet sinners, He loves us, pardons us, and calls us back. This is mercy! While there is still breath in us, He is always ready to pour His mercy on us. When we are left with no more time to return to Him, His justice comes. 

In the end, even Hell itself is an act of mercy, and not blind justice. God loves us enough to let us have our will. If we live apart from His will for our lives, why would we want to live for eternity with Him? Yes, by our actions, we can reject God, in which case He shows His love in allowing us to reject Him. But we can also be presumptuous, assuming His mercy and that He would accept us, unrepentant sin and all. No, we are to call on His mercy, knowing Him to be just. Then, and only then, can we live in His mercy and extend that mercy to others.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

An Extraordinary Holy Year - a Year for Mercy

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis formally announced an Extraordinary Holy year starting with the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, 2015 and ending on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016 (the start coincides with the 50th anniversary of the formal closing of the Second Vatican Council). Holy years are typically held every 25 years (2000 was the last one of the ordinary year), but extraordinary years are held at the authorization of the Pope. Holy years involve spiritual activities as well as a formal opening of certain “Holy Doors” such as one of the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This extraordinary Jubilee has the theme of “A year of mercy”, and is the Pope’s invitation to all Christians to celebrate in a special way the mercy of Christ. Pope Francis, in doing so, is asking all Christians to seek the mercy of Christ and to proclaim it to those who do not know Him. In fact, Pope Francis added a title to Jesus - The Living Face of the Mercy of the Father. Jesus reveals the mercy of God to us.
The Pope is recommending that we focus on one verse from Luke 6:36 - “Be Merciful as your Heavenly Father is Merciful” - as our theme for the year. As he and Pope Benedict XVI are fond of reminding us, God never tires of forgiving us, and this is His mercy in action. He also reminds us that no one can be excluded from the mercy of God. We are to welcome all who are seeking the Face of God. It is a message that the world needs, and a message that has power to move the world. But it is a message that needs to be properly understood, too, or else instead of reflecting on the Living Face of the Father’s mercy, we would be looking at an all too human face of failure.
Mercy is helping others live with their proper dignity. It involves an element of justice, that one is righting a wrong that the other is unable to correct him or herself. Mercy always leads to the truth and a higher human dignity. Many might mistake mercy for weakness, but it is really a strength - to right the wrong, to seek amends. It is a mistake to think that mercy allows condoning or even approving of sin - but that would lack truth and human dignity, and ultimately even charity as God is just, and while He is forgiving, it is presumptuous to assume that He will forgive one’s continuing to sin with not desire of conversion. In the end, this misguided concept is false compassion. Such false compassion denies the moral teachings of the Church and affirm an “anything goes” attitude. But it is just as equally wrong to dismiss people because they are not living a completely moral life - it lacks mercy. Instead, it invites people to come to God where they are, but challenging them in gentle and compassionate ways to living in accord with truth and justice as God would desire. Mercy is following the example of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. He forgives her, but calls her to conversion (“Go, and sin no more.”). Even Pope Francis’s often quoted sound bit - “Who am I to judge?”, needs to be seen in the context of mercy, which it is only when one reads the full statement: “[a person] who is seeking who is seeking God, who is of good will - well, who am I to judge?” takes on the element of one who is seeking a life in accord with God’s will, seeking His grace.
Such a concept is one that we need. It is for this reason that Pope Francis has invited us to this special year of Mercy - to encounter the Living Face of the Mercy of God, to hear the call to conversion and to invite others to contemplate and respond to Mercy in their lives as well.