“Bask in your love for one another; let that be all you talk about for one night.” A priest from my parish here in Illinois gives these instructions to couples he is preparing for marriage. He also tells them that, during the week of their wedding, they must go out on a date where they are not allowed to talk about the details of the wedding. As important as the imported chair covers are, you can hear him saying, they’ll still be there on your wedding day, but this week, as you prepare for this covenant of love, you need to focus on your love, the love which makes all of this pomp and circumstance make any sense at all. Just as he asks those couples to slow down, take a day to sit in each other’s love, he asked all of us on Divine Mercy Sunday last year to slow down, to take a day to remember that everything about our faith is important, that sometimes we just need to sit in the Father’s love.
As the Year of Mercy was announced, and as we learned that this year would be focused on the incredibly merciful heart of the Father, we may have been tempted to think of all of the things that this meant for the Church.
You may have thought, if you’re in a role of ministry as I am, of the opportunities this might bring to your parish. If you’re a parent, you may have thought of the joy of sharing this message of mercy in a special way with your children. If you have dear friends and family who have fallen away from the faith, you may have leapt for joy at the thought of inviting them back into the merciful arms of the Father.
While all of these things are good and necessary, and while we should take every chance this year to invite back those who’ve fallen away and share this message with all of those we can find, at the heart of this year is the call to slow down and, even if just for a few moments, to bask in the Father’s love for us first and foremost. As Pope Benedict XVI said in this week’s quote of the week, when Jesus comes to bring home the stray sheep, he “brings me home, too.”
Sometimes, in the midst of my need to be all things for all people and solve the world’s problems even when my help is neither requested nor needed, I have a tendency to forget that when we speak of a merciful God we are speaking of a God whose mercy can even extend into the depths of my own hurt and pain. When we talk about the year of mercy, when Pope Francis asks us to “gaze even more attentively on mercy,” we are not meant to look first to God’s mercy for others, because God’s mercy is meant first and foremost for me. Until I am willing to let my brokenness, my garbage, my hurt and my pain come front and center before the Lord, where I am able to sit and simply bask in His mercy, I have not truly grasped this year of mercy, and I have missed what the Lord’s mercy is truly all about.
When Jesus comes to save, He comes as the Good Shepherd who, in His immense mercy, puts me on His shoulders and carries me home. The time of mercy is now, and that doesn't mean mercy for everyone else, it means mercy for me and mercy for you, mercy which looks at each of us right here and right now.