Pope Francis has written a document entitled, ‘The Face of Mercy.’ in which he has proclaimed a JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY - commencing on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, this year, and ending on the Feast of Christ the King, next year.
In the Bible God describes Himself as being full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, swift to forgive, (cf. Pss. 86.15; 145. 8). The Pope is amply justified in seeing the Face of God as being "The Face of Mercy!"
BUT, what have I, you, indeed, the whole human family – including new-born babes, done to need God’s mercy? Original sin - that tragic choice made by the first couple, Adam and Eve. God had created them in a beautiful, intimate relationship with Himself. This bonding was meant to be the heritage of their descendants until the end of time.
God had given them the freedom to decide whether to live under His Lordship or to ‘go it alone.’ In deciding to break away they deprived all generations of the heritage of this intimacy. Sadly we follow the pattern of their waywardness.
Only God, offended by sin, is able to repair the damaged relationship caused by the Original Sin and all other sins. Since God did not want to lose His beloved, but sinful, children His merciful love had to come to their rescue. He sent His Son to become one of us – the human embodiment of divine mercy, the ambassador and minister of divine mercy.
How He accomplished this is truly staggering…by the most generous expression of merciful love – laying down His very life for us, His friends. And now Jesus continues this saving, rescue operation through his Church. No-one has described this more eloquently than St. Paul in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians:
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself; not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God," (2 Cor. 5. 17-20).
And the mission of the Church? To be ‘ambassadors of reconciliation,’ proclaiming the wonder of God’s loving mercy; urging others to seek the forgiveness we have received; the joy of becoming a new creation as God’s children, freed from the crushing burden of guilt. But it’s not enough for us simply to talk about God’s mercy. We must share it by showing it. With Christ we must be Peacemakers. Only then will we be true sons and daughters of God. In other words, we must be ‘ministers of reconciliation.’ Jesus’ whole mission is summed up in the word, ‘peacemaker.’ The whole mission of the Church is to be Christ’s ‘ministers and ambassadors of reconciliation.’
What is all this saying to you and me? Put past injuries behind us: stop holding in our hearts the long-past offences of others –even forgiving them seventy times seven, (Mtt.18. 21). Just as urgent and much more difficult is it for us to find the courage humbly to seek their forgiveness.
How hard it is for us to admit that we all stand in need of the merciful forgiveness of God! How hard it is for us to keep our resolve that with His help we will keep striving to mend our ways!
With the excitement of S. Paul Pope Francis describes the wonderful world in which we live -the Face of Jesus is the Face of Mercy! "There is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new…. not counting their trespasses against them."
The ancient Prophecy of Jeremiah resounds with the splendour of God’s Face of Mercy, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you," (Jer. 31. 3).
But it is not in a spirit of self-righteousness that we accept God’s call to be His agents. Did not St. Paul write, "We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us?" -through you and me.
This coming Year of Mercy is a special time for us to seek forgiveness from God and from each other. It’s a time for us to show mercy. With God’s grace it is a time for all of us to be bridge- builders –repairing damaged relationships. If mercy is the face of God, mercy must be the face of His children, made in His own image and likeness.
IN PROCLAIMING A JUBILEE YEAR OF MERCY THAT IS RADIANT WITH THE FACE OF GOD, THE FACE OF MERCY, POPE FRANCIS IS NOT DREAMING IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS….NEITHER ARE WE!