Personally, I have had an interesting start to my Year of Mercy. After all of the incredible build up–with papal bulls, and proclamations, and commissioning of missionaries of mercy, etc., etc.–I feel like my own experience of the Year of Mercy has begun with more of a whimper than a bang. It kind of feels like one of those Lents where it is Ash Wednesday before you even know it and you end up just giving up chocolate because you do not have time to think of anything else to do.
I have already heard incredible stories of people coming back to confession after years and years and unloading some deeply painful sins, but, as far as the Year of Mercy goes, I still feel like I’m a little bit on the sidelines waiting to be tagged in. What’s MY role in the Year of Mercy? Where do I start?
The more I have read in his statements surrounding the Year of Mercy, I realize that as much as Pope Francis is calling this Year of Mercy so that hardened sinners might return to the Lord, he’s also calling me, the Elder Son, home to come share in my Father’s joy. How can I do this? By becoming mercy myself.
Pope Francis has been very clear that the Year of Mercy goes hand in hand with the call to the New Evangelization. If we are going to be effective at evangelizing a broken world, then we need to look more like the Master at it. The world can shout down your logic but it cannot ignore the witness of your mercy. Pope Benedict famously remarked that the Church’s greatest apologetic was found in two things: her saints and her art. We have a chance this year to become the living artwork of God: a saint.
To become merciful is to become practiced in loving in the way that Christ loved. Richly, selflessly, gratuitously. If I want to imitate Christ, then my love is imperfect until it is given where it is not deserved. It is easy to love where love is called for. But we are called to be Christians. It was while we were still sinners that our God died for us.
Hasn’t the point of being a Christian always been about becoming an alter Christus? A way of extending the presence of Christ in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe more than anything, that is what Pope Francis is calling us to reflect on again this year. That Jesus who encountered the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the centurion, and Matthew: how much do we look like Him? If we really believe in the profundity of our Baptism, then we know that we are called to nothing less.
Practically, the Church spells out what that looks like; they are called the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. These simply represent an unpacking of what it means to love the impoverished in various ways. For those of us who aspire to sanctity in imitation of Christ, they are commands, not suggestions. Even better for us in this day and age, they transcend our limiting categories of “conservative” and “liberal.” We are told both to admonish the sinner and give drink to the thirsty. We don’t get to avoid either of those just because we don’t agree with the people who more often herald their importance.
In the short video above, if you haven't already watched it, I expand more on this the idea that the point of the Year of Mercy is about calling us to become vehicles of mercy for the whole world. Enjoy!