Friday, September 25, 2015

Why We Need Pope Francis and a Year of Mercy

I'll start here, with the great divide that shouldn't be but is, because in the world of Catholicism, there is a right and left wing, and both think the other side is obsessed with all the wrong things, and should reform if they would follow Christ.  The left champions social justice but is looser on personal morality, the need for the sacraments or the Church or priests or the Pope in particular.  The right champions personal morality, loves the prayers and the tradition, and the sacraments, but looks at social justice issues when they stray from abortion, and struggles with "Who is my neighbor?" and "How much do I have to give?"

Both sides are convinced, the other side lacks reason and fails to follow Christ.  Christ says "Judge not, lest ye be judged." and permits all manner of behavior under that cover.  The other side says, "Christ says 'Go and sin no more.' and views those who ignore those words as warranting fire, warnings, possible damnation.  Neither side sees fully the other as fully Christ like, because being separate, they cannot be.  To be the seamless garment of Christ, or to be His body, we must embrace all.   We need both hands, both feet, both eyes, both ears, both lungs, all the chambers of the heart, all the veins, all of the body, to really live.

If the left and right wave (illustrated in the cartoon), were to collide, they would eventually, flatten into smooth flat water, an ocean of mercy, what Christ actually intends.

Pope Francis has declared the coming year, a "Year of Mercy" which does not mean, as some might interpret, the Church's "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" card, because we already have that in the sacrament of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, the graces bestowed by penance, fasting and prayer, and the gifts we can access through sacramental devotions and corporeal and spiritual acts of mercy.  

What "The Year of Mercy" does, is draw our eyes, minds and hearts to reflect for 366 (2016 is a leap year) days on what is God's mercy?

What does it mean?
First, it means God loves us beyond what we merit, which is good because we cannot merit Heaven.  (For those who think we can, please read up on your Catechism on Grace and Justification).

Second, it means (one can hope), that we begin to try to apply that measure of mercy which we need/seek, to others in our lives, and not just the ones we currently feel comfortable giving such mercy.  The measure with which we measure...shall be measured unto us.   No one should feel perfectly at ease, for none of us greet each person, both seen and unseen, as though they were Christ in His distressing disguise.  

We all have someone we feel "justified" in declaring evil, declaring bad, declaring unworthy of mercy.  We may have been tired, ill, frustrated, aggravated, even justifiably so, but that moment, when we have justice on our side, when we are within our rights to declare someone wrong, and to hold them to the sticking point, is precisely the moment at which we are afforded the opportunity to show the mercy we would seek for ourselves.

It is not a pleasant idea, to swallow when one feels justified, in favor of mercy, because it will require surrender.  "When do we get to throw the rocks?" is not following Christ, no matter how virtuous we might be in our habits.

When the Samaritans reject Jesus,  But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;…"and I would submit, neither do we.  

Mercy.  Mercy.  Mercy.  It is what we crave for ourselves, but think should be withheld from others.
Why?  Because we think we want a year of Justice, and we presume somehow, we are just.

But if we Trust Christ.  If we Know Christ, then we should Trust His Father.  We should Trust God's Judgement.  We should seek God's Mercy, and know, He will also be just.

If you still feel like you've labored and endured the sun's heat all day, and never received so much as a kid goat to share with your friends, consider why you labor.  It is out of love, not duty, to the Father and all that He has, is yours.

Still struggling with Pope Francis and mercy and what it means to be Catholic in light of this Pope's witness and words in America? I submit this reflection by Fr. John Riccardo:

and leaving the closing argument to Jesus:

  If Christ can extend mercy from the cross, when He would be most justified in singling out souls for damnation, for the pain and suffering He has endured, and if we would be followers of Christ, we must also desire mercy even on our enemies even if they do not change their minds or agree with us.
Looking about at the world, boy do we need 366 days of reflection on the need to extend mercy on each other.

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
With that fervent prayer, trust that Jesus will do the rest.


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