All posts tagged: Year of Mercy

Rediscovering Hope

Always be ready to give a reason for your hope. (1 Pet 3:15) As children of God, all Christians are called to proclaim boldly the truth of Christ. Far too often, however, Christians are reluctant to explain the Church’s teachings. We are found apologizing for or even watering down the truth, especially those truths relating to morality and man’s search for love. What is the reason for this reluctance? Perhaps modern man seems too faithless to receive the truth. Perhaps the Church’s teachings seem too difficult to accept. Or perhaps we have forgotten that to give truth is the greatest charity. Perhaps we have forgotten that with every invitation to virtue, God gives us the strength to achieve greatness. Perhaps, we have forgotten hope. St. Thomas Aquinas defines hope as a theological virtue by which man, relying on God’s strength, seeks an arduous but possible good.[1] In a fast-paced society of immediate gratification, man’s appreciation of the arduous or difficult good has fallen by the wayside. He prefers immediate pleasure to future greatness. The Church’s …

Christ the King of Mercy

This Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, marks the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As the aftermath of the recent election continues to play out, it strikes me that this past year, with its focus on learning what it means to practice mercy, has been a training ground for the days, months, and years to come. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, one must practice mercy, and at the moment, that seems to mean extending mercy toward those who appear to hold views antithetical to our own. In the world of social media, we can far too easily become insulated: we tell people to un-friend us if they voted for a particular candidate; we mute people from our news feeds if they post too many ideological rants or politically-driven articles; we cultivate a circle of friends who share our viewpoints. In this ‘echo chamber of the like-minded,’ our voices bounce off one another in isolated agreement and self-validation, growing louder and louder until they become a din, and …

Forgive Us Our Debts: A Catechesis of Mercy in the Early Church

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels chronicle Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles concerning genuine prayer (Mt 6:5–15; Lk 11:1–13). The words of the Our Father—Jesus’ archetype of prayer—represent the unique liturgical usage of the prayer of the evangelists’ contemporary communities.[1] The theology presented therein was assimilated by the succeeding post-apostolic generations towards a catechetical formula of instruction (traditio) and recitation (redditio) in preparation for the Christian rite of Baptism.[2] This pedagogy of spiritual instruction was meant to form within the soon-to-be Christian a recourse to God, requesting that she might remain faithful to her promises to be made in the creed in the face of her own debts (sins) and a world hostile to the Gospel; by practicing the petition “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” the catechumen was formed in the experiential truth of Christ’s reconciling act.[3] She was grounded in what Pope Francis has linguistically constructed as misericordiando—the “mercy-ing” of the Lord.[4] This catechesis of mercy is central to the exegesis and theological writings of the early Church concerning this primary attribute …

The Call to Follow Christ: St. John Paul II on Disability

It is a great joy for me to be able to begin speaking to you in such a beautiful way: brothers and sisters. Indeed all of us are children of the same Father, beloved and redeemed by God through Christ. Because of this, no one should be considered unknown or strangers to one another even though this is our first meeting together. From the depths of my heart I greet all of you who have gathered here at this cathedral to pray with me the old and familiar prayer, the Angelus. At this noontime, our faith community embraces you. But our prayers not only embrace you, but also the many men [and women] in Germany who live out their lives with physical disabilities and whose faith-filled spirits are united with ours in prayer and through the television or radio. To them [1] also, I want to greet you as brothers and sisters. You, who are in your houses, alone or in the company of your families and friends, or in a nursing home in which you …

A Lifestyle of Mercy: Models and Opportunities

Having crossed the midpoint of the Year of Mercy, it is time to take stock. During his eighth jubilee audience on June 30, 2016, Pope Francis challenged us by asking whether or not mercy has become our style of life. We can easily recognize this life style, the Pope noted, in a person in whom “mercy has eyes to see, ears to listen, hands to resolve.” In other words, “The works of mercy are not theoretical subjects, but concrete testimonies. They oblige one to rollup one’s sleeves to alleviate suffering.” The month of July offers us several occasions to ponder this lifestyle of mercy. First, among the saints of this month’s liturgical calendar, St. Mary Magdalene stands out. Dubbed by St. Augustine the “Apostle of the Apostles,” her Memorial on July 22 was recently raised to a Feast. The Vatican’s announcement highlighted Pope Francis’ decision as a recognition of this woman whose life was touched and radically changed by mercy. The official Prayer for the Year of Mercy describes the chains from which she was …

A Tale of Two Synods: What’s Become of Catholic Marriage and What Can We Do About It?

Hermeneutics has always been a challenge, even with something seemingly simple. Allow me an example. I was teaching catechism for three- to five-year-olds at our parish on Sunday, and I asked the kids to draw a picture of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. Well, after five minutes my son brings up his uncontestably creative rendition. I could see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but there was a fourth figure I couldn’t make out. Aware that I look thoroughly nonplussed, my son enlightens me: “Papa, you see, that’s Pontius Pilate. He was flying their plane!” Thankfully, you didn’t come here tonight to hear me tell jokes. You’re here to hear a tale of two Synods: what’s happened to marriage and what we can do about it. It was the best of Synods, it was the worst of Synods, it was the synod of wisdom, it was the synod of foolishness, it was the episcopate of belief, it was the episcopate of incredulity, it was the papacy of Light, it was the papacy of Darkness . . …

The Heart’s Movement

During the Jubilee Year, we have often heard the word ‘mercy.’ Every time I hear it, I think about its Latin equivalent: misericordia. The literal sense of this word is the movement of the heart toward pity. The misery of the heart that causes us to reach out in love. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we encounter the merciful heart of Jesus. He enters the city of Nain in Galilee. He encounters a widow whose only son has died. This woman would have no income to support her, depending entirely upon the mercy of those she met. And here, she meets the giver of all mercy, Jesus. There is another subtle reference in this parable to Elijah. As the Old Testament reading for this Sunday described, the prophet Elijah also raised the only son of a widow from the dead. The Gospel of Luke makes clear that Jesus is the great prophet of God, come to announce glad tidings to the poor. To dispense mercy. Let us not turn our eyes away from the compassion that …

Liturgical Elements in the Divine Mercy Image

In March of this year the University of Notre Dame was honored to host Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania and to screen the new documentary film “The Original Image of Divine Mercy”.[1]  Within Vilnius itself is the actual original image of Divine Mercy that was painted in 1933 by artist Eugene Kazimierowski under the direction of St. Faustina who received inner locutions and apparitions of Our Lord who directed her to paint the image that it might be publicly venerated and souls might come to know God’s mercy. In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me, …

The First Work of Mercy

Every year in late fall, our local Christian Aid Center has a “Coats for Kids” campaign to help parents outfit their little ones in preparation for the cold of winter. Last year, our Catholic school sponsored a sock drive during the week of St. Nicholas’ feast: a different size each day—from baby booties through toddler, youth, and adult sizes. We learned that, while warm socks are of course one of the most essential kinds of clothing, they are often the last things people think to give. Clothing the naked was the first work of mercy, performed by God in covering the naked shame of Adam and Eve after the fall (Gen 3:21). Christian poets—Catholic and Protestant—have often pondered this covering over the centuries, finding in it the very essence of the fallen human condition and of Christ’s redemptive power. In Paradise Lost, John Milton writes movingly of how the nakedness of the first man and woman before the fall signifies their perfect innocence and dignity: Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed, Then was not …

Mary, Mother of Mercy

Pope Francis’ Message for Lent in the Year of Mercy (LM) bears the title, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee. Signed on the Feast of St. Francis (October 4, 2015), the message is subdivided into three subheadings. Parts two and three focus directly on mercy, reflecting respectively on God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy and on the works of mercy. It is the first part, however, that is remarkable in that it directs attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the papal Lenten messages began in 1978, this has never been done. A possible exception may be Lent 1988 occurring during the Marian Year; but even Mary’s Pope, St. John Paul II, did not refer to her more significantly than with a general salute. Surprising, also, is the title of the first subheading of Francis’ Lenten Letter: “Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized.” At first glance, this heading seems strange since it does not include …