FROM November 20, the Holy Door will close and the extraordinary Year of Mercy will end. I’ll be honest, I have been extremely slack in terms of taking full advantage of this wonderful year.
However, I have finally picked up Pope Francis’ Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
It was a good way to start; it is never too late.
It is a beautiful invitation to all, and I cannot stress that word enough, to experience the mercy of God.
As the Pope plainly puts it “we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy”.
Pope Francis quotes Scripture showing just a few examples of how the Lord’s mercy is shown or discussed.
One cannot help but be moved to tears of joy at reading these words in light of one’s history and reality.
“The signs he (Jesus) works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalised, the sick and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.”
The Pope is clear that mercy is the essence of Jesus; in all he does and says, mercy is the core foundation of God.
The beauty of this year is that it is not only a call to experience God’s mercy but to experience the exercising of mercy.
The Pope mentions the last part of chapter 18 of St Matthew’s Gospel where St Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive his brother, whether seven times was enough. However, Jesus replies “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22)”.
I once heard someone tell me that this isn’t just 77 times, but seven to the power of 70.
A number that is almost uncountable.
That is how many times we must forgive, for we have been forgiven more.
The good thing is that Jesus follows this by telling the apostles the parable of the unforgiving debtor to explain this concept – where there is a master who forgives a big debt of one of his debtors when mercy was sought, but then that person threatens the one who owes him just a trifle with jail if he does not pay what he owes, even though mercy was sought.
The master then rebuked and punished the debtor for his lack of mercy.
If it is true that we are this debtor to whom a massive debt has been cancelled shouldn’t we exercise the same level of mercy on others who could never wrong us the way we have wronged God?
Pope Francis states “Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other”. He continues saying that mercy “becomes the criterion for ascertaining who his true children are”.
Biologically speaking, when a dog gives birth to puppies, you are 100 per cent sure that those puppies will turn out like the parents in one way or the other.
In the same way, Christians are bound to turn into their Father, because they have the same nature. Our Father is God and his nature is one of mercy in the face of injustice.
The world is full of injustices; we can go on rants and other sorts of crusades to fight these, however, the biggest impact we can have is by showing mercy.
The Pope says, “mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert and believe”.
The only thing we have to do is accept this mercy, for God’s mercy is without end.
St Augustine says, “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy”.
What a beautiful statement.
It fills me with joy to read these words.
How many times have I found myself down because my sins are so great?
Yet, God is there ready to forgive me and pick me up when I have fallen, if I want Him to pick me up for he leaves me free to accept or not to accept the mercy.
How can my heart not be filled with gratitude and joy for the new life that Christ offers me – a life where I don’t have to hold on to anger, but rather show mercy because mercy has been shown to me?
Therefore, as this Year of Mercy is ending and the door closes, God opens a window. Let us leave this window open to the mercy that this year has allowed us to experience – not only so that we may experience the mercy of God, but so that we can show mercy to others.
By Vincenzo Ferraioli
Vincenzo Ferraioli is a teacher at San Sisto College, Carina.