The Holy Year of Mercy: Reflections

Go and do likewise

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While in prison John the Baptist sent a couple of his disciples to Jesus with a question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Why wasn’t John sure? Perhaps because he had been hearing stories of Jesus’ deeds of compassion and mercy, not of the righteous judgment he was expecting from a bona-fide Messiah. In response Jesus simply pointed to what had been going on because of him—“the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” Of these signs, Christ says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” Those words went out not only to John’s disciples but also to us. Broadcast some Good News today by being a source of comfort and consolation to someone who is sick, physically challenged, poor, or disillusioned.

Readings: Isaiah 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25; Luke 7:18b-23. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God.”

How much wrong we do ...

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How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy.

—Pope Francis, in the Mass marking the start of the Holy Year of Mercy

Put some muscle in your faith

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Valerian and Tiburtius became converts to Christianity during the third century through the urging and inspiration of Saint Cecilia. They, along with Saint Cecilia, were martyred for their faith. What capital crimes did Valerian and Tiburtius commit against the state? They buried their dead, which was against the Roman law. Burying the dead is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy—deeds that have to do with providing bodily comfort. The others are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to prisoners, sheltering the homeless, and visiting the sick. In memory of these early martyrs, practice a work of mercy this week.

Readings: Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5; Luke 21:1-4. “These follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”

If I did not believe ...

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If I did not believe . . . that the works of mercy do lighten the sum total of suffering in the world, the problem of evil would indeed be overwhelming.

—Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage

The prodigal father’s parable

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Accused of hanging out with sinners, Jesus tells one of his best stories. “A man had two sons,” the elder (oh-so-good) and the younger (not-so-much). It’s a story about extravagance and wastefulness—prodigality—but not the son’s. The “prodigal father’s” affection and forgiveness go overboard, a spendthrift with his love. The parable closes with a party dad throws for his son who “once was lost and now is found,” but the older son refuses to join the celebration, so that the father has to beg him to go beyond his joyless (self-)righteousness. The father actually runs out to meet a son twice: once to kiss the errant, broken younger one and then to bring into the warmth that stubborn elder one. Jesus still “consorts with sinners,” no manner which kind we are.

The mark of the sinner

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The checkout clerk looked at you kind of funny. “You’ve got something on your forehead,” she said, unaware of Ash Wednesday. We spend the day with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. We’re proud to be Catholic, but we’re a little uneasy about appearing in public wearing such a strange sign. Some think the ashes mark the righteous, those who go to church. But in reality it expresses our need for repentance. Jesus calls those who need the mercy and compassion of God so that the life-changing power of forgiveness might be experienced. Lent is a time for us to become familiar with that saving power.

Let us . . . remember Peter

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Let us . . . remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: “Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in Me.” Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus—how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

—Pope Francis

A good point to raise

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"They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” That’s what Mary of Magdala wondered when she was the first to find Christ’s empty grave. Though she mistakenly thought at first that others had robbed the tomb, her question was important: Where had Jesus gone? It seems he chose to walk the earth again for a while before ascending to the right hand of God. And—let’s hope—he continues to walk in each of our lives. Easter Day begins an octave, eight days that remind us that every day is Easter and that we are a people of the Resurrection who believe in love, joy, forgiveness, and life in all forms—including the eternal variety. Show that you believe in what the risen Christ stands for by doling out love, mercy, and kindness in generous portions these eight days and beyond.

Collect all six

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Here’s a challenge: Complete all six works of mercy listed in Matthew 25. Be creative: You can literally give someone a glass of water, or provide a lonely person with the company for which he or she spiritually thirsts. You might participate in the diocesan prison ministry, or send financial support to an interfaith group like Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS). You may care for an ill family member or someone who’s sick at heart because of a difficult experience. Keep the list posted and see how many ways your family can find to serve the poor Christ.

Come! Live in the light!

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Jesus makes it clear to Peter and the rest of his disciples that they will follow him. Following Jesus, the light of the world, is the call of all Christians. What does it mean to follow the Lord? The prophet Micah puts it simply: To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (6:8). Unsure you’re equal to the task? Take small steps each day toward the light by acknowledging a mistake, forgiving an offense, or letting go of an argument. Soon light will shine from you.

God’s mercy can make ...

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God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). . . . Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. 
—Pope Francis

Mercy among the virtues ...

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Mercy among the virtues is like the moon among the stars—not so sparkling and vivid as many, but dispensing a calm radiance that hallows the whole. It is the bow that rests upon the bosom of the cloud when the storm has passed. It is the light that hovers above the judgment-seat.
—E.H. Chapin, Living Words

Faith large and small

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When you think about it, Jesus asks both a lot and only a little of his disciples. A lot: that they give themselves completely to following him and his way. But also a little: doing a few basic things like having faith and trusting him and the Father who sent him; loving as you are loved by God; forgiving because you are forgiven; and showing mercy, for you have received mercy. Though it asks much—everything, really—of people, being a Christian is actually pretty simple: Love God with your whole self, and share that love with others.

I think we too are the people ...

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I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think—and I say it with humility—that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy. 
—Pope Francis

I used to think mercy meant ...

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I used to think mercy meant showing kindness to someone who didn’t deserve it, as if only the recipient defined the act. The girl in between has learned that mercy is defined by its giver. Our flaws are obvious, yet we are loved and able to love, if we choose, because there is that bit of the divine still smoldering in us.
—Susan Meissner, The Shape of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strain’d ...

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The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

—William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Together let us pray to the Virgin ...

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Together let us pray to the Virgin Mary that she helps us . . . to walk in faith and charity, ever trusting in the Lord’s mercy; He always awaits us, loves us, has pardoned us with His Blood and pardons us every time we go to Him to ask His forgiveness. Let us trust in His mercy! 
—Pope Francis

Live the cross

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Once God lights a fire under a person, there’s no stopping him or her! Saint Paul of the Cross was just such an individual. At the age of 19 he had a powerful experience of God’s love and dedicated himself to prayer and helping others open themselves to the depth of that love. At 26 he founded a new religious community, the Passionists. The secret to his dedication? It’s in his honorific title: the cross. Wrote the saint: “Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy.” Paul encouraged people to practice heroic goodness “especially through a patience reinforced by courage.” What’s the secret to your dedication to living the gospel?

Readings: Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48. “Of this gospel I have become a servant.”

I would encourage that hate ...

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I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.

— Seattle Pacific University student Jon Meis, who disarmed a campus shooter

Have a heart

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Devotion to the physical heart of Jesus goes back to the Middle Ages, but it really did not become widespread until a Visitation sister, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, had a series of visions between 1673 and 1675 that gave a clearer shape to the devotion. Though prayer to Jesus in his Sacred Heart became one of the most popular devotions in the history of Catholicism, it did have its opponents, who thought it meant separating the human part of Jesus from the divine and worshipping it—idolatry, in other words. What they failed to see was that the Sacred Heart testified to the Incarnation: How God took human form and showed God’s mercy and love for humanity. Adore Jesus’ humanity by showing that same mercy and love.

Readings: Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 12:8-12. “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.”

He who cannot forgive ...

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He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.

— George Herbert (1593-1633)

Love is never lost

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“Our Lady of Sorrows” is a title of Mary that refers to the sorrows she experienced throughout her life. These stretched from Simeon’s prophecy about Jesus’ future to the burial of Jesus. Take time today to consider the sorrows in your own life—maybe they are dreams broken, loved ones lost, or small disappointments and frustrations added up. With Mary at your side, hold these sorrows tenderly and then place them into the hands of God who, as Mary experienced, is a God of mercy and faithfulness, a God of love.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35. “Love . . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

A little bit of mercy ...

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A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.

— Pope Francis

First things first

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Do we recognize the Jesus who says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, he cannot be my disciple”? The words seem harsh in comparison to the soothing invitation of the Good Shepherd. Not to worry—Jesus is not insisting, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is not insisting we abandon family or become homeless in order to follow him. But Jesus is saying, without doubt, that nothing—no thing and no one—can become so central in life that it interferes with doing God’s will to love God and love your neighbor as yourself by being just, showing mercy, and walking with God. Jesus’ call is “do as I do. Love as I love, hold nothing back. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Today’s readings: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33.“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Sweet mercy ...

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Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.

— William Shakespeare

Royal advice on love

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In the year 2000 Hungarians celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of their country by Saint Stephen, who not only created one nation out of numerous tribes but also made it Christian. Though Stephen had already been canonized by the Roman Church centuries before, in order to mark the millennium the Eastern Orthodox Church also canonized him—an unprecedented gesture endorsed by Pope John Paul II, who emphasized the need for Christians more than ever to work together. Stephen’s admonitions to his son Emeric include the words: “Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.”

Readings: Ezekiel 24:15-24; Matthew 19:16-22. “ ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

The confessional ...

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The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better.

— Pope Francis

I have always found that mercy ...

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

— Abraham Lincoln

Gone but not forgotten

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Saint Martin is the last pope in history to be honored as a martyr, but his death for the faith did not occur quickly. After being elected pope in 649 A.D. he made enemies by opposing a heresy and condemning the emperor for supporting that heresy. As a result, while lying sick, Martin was kidnapped and carted off to the East, where he was jailed and eventually exiled. During this time he was given poor food, not allowed to wash regularly, and came down with dysentery. On top of that he was ignored by his church back home. “I wonder . . . at those who belong to the church of Saint Peter for the little concern they show for one of their body,” he wrote. Let this saint’s experience motivate you to perform the corporal works of mercy denied him—like clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the prisoner.

Readings: Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7b-15. “There was not a needy person among them.”

Charity is a supreme virtue ...

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Charity is a supreme virtue, and the great channel through which the mercy of God is passed onto mankind.

— Conrad Hilton

A hands-on gospel

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The apostle Thomas went from doubting to believing, all in a moment. Faith arrived in the form of a hands-on experience of Jesus. And it was no miraculous wonder Thomas had been in need of simple contact with the wounds of Christ. Nothing opens the heart and widens the capacity of our understanding like an encounter with wounded humanity. Engage the spirit of mercy by touching the wounded Christ in the world. Visit a sick friend, call a hurting family member, or show kindness to a stranger. Christ is there!

Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31. “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

It is not easy to entrust oneself ...

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It is not easy to entrust oneself to God's mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! ... "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11). 

— Pope Francis

Be an angel

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Cancer has gone from being the “big C” (a diagnosis doctors didn’t think appropriate to share directly with their patients) to becoming a fact of life and ongoing treatment in many families. So be an angel: Get involved. Do a fundraising walk or write a check. Help a neighbor bear the burden of endless medical appointments with a lift, a meal, some clean laundry. Start an “angels” group in your parish. Together we can find compassion, and—let’s hope—a cure.

Readings: Hebrews 13:1-8; Mark 6:14-29.“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Forgiveness lives on

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One of the marks of sanctity is that it inspires radical change in the lives of those who encounter it. Such was the case with Maria Goretti, murdered in 1902 by a would-be rapist when she was only 11 years old. She forgave her killer, Alessandro Serenelli, on her deathbed. Serenelli, however, was unrepentant until he had a dream in which Maria gave him lilies that immediately burned his hands. After his release from prison decades later, Serenelli visited Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. They attended Mass together the next day, receiving Communion side by side. On June 24, 1950 the repentant Serenelli was present for Goretti’s canonization. Change someone’s life today through forgiveness.

Readings: Genesis 28:10-22a; Matthew 9:18-26.“My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Give it up for Frances

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Frances was born in Rome in 1384 to wealthy parents. At an early age she wanted to be a nun, but her parents arranged a marriage instead. She would lose two children to the plague, which sensitized her to the needs of the less fortunate. With her sister she visited the poor and took care of the sick, inspiring other wealthy women to do the same. Frances can serve as our inspiration to practice a little good-old-fashioned almsgiving.

Readings: Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Matthew 18:21-35. “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?”

Jesus' attitude is striking ...

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Jesus' attitude is striking: We do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God's face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God's patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. "Great is God's mercy," says the Psalm. 

— Pope Francis

In the past few days ...

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In the past few days I have been reading a book by a Cardinal ... Cardinal Kasper said that feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient. ... Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God's love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful. 

— Pope Francis

Crossing the bridge

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A prayer of Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels catches him in a kind of ecstasy, thrilled that the gulf between God and humanity is being bridged, and he is the bridge! Jesus acknowledges that “no one knows the Father but the Son,” which is certainly wonderful for Jesus, but if it were left there we’d still be on the outside looking in. Then comes that little word—“and.” No one knows God but Jesus himself, “and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” That’s us! Jesus’ whole mission was to show us both who God is (loving Parent) and what God is like (full of justice and mercy). Jesus looks at the likes of you and me and says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see, the ears that hear what you hear.” We’re blessed indeed when we look to Jesus to show us, again and again, who God really is.

Readings: Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29; Luke 10:17-24. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.”

Love for the least

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Saint John Eudes (1601-1680) was a famed preacher of “parish missions” and a promoter of the devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Even early in his priestly life he brought the love and mercy of God to those struck by the plague. He ministered among and helped them when he could in both body and spirit. Who in your life is ill in body, spirit, or mind? How can you help them?

Readings: Judges 9:6-15; Matthew 20:1-16. “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Image matters

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The Bible is replete with various images of God, from God as a judge and executor (Exodus 12:12) to God as a woman baking bread (Matthew 13:33). Often these images seem contradictory—a violent God killing firstborn children versus a God who nourishes with patience and care. Frequently these likenesses are used to describe some kind of attribute of God or the experience of a people’s encounter with God. How do we understand God in the 21st century? What images might we use to describe our experience of God? In a world more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, how does what happens in the Middle East or India affect us and our experience of God? What about the beauty and plight of God’s earth and creatures?

Readings: Exodus 11:10-12:14; Matthew 12:1-8. “ ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ ”

I am always struck when I reread ...

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I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father. ... The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about [his wayward son], and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach. ... God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always!

— Pope Francis

God's patience ...

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God's patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to Him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. ... It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, "My merit is God's mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as He is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits." This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus' mercy, to trust in His patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of His love. 

— Pope Francis

Fear not

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In a homily given at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth in 2000, Pope John Paul II describes similarities between Abraham, our father in faith, and Mary, our mother: “For both Abraham and Mary, the divine promise comes as something completely unexpected. God disrupts the daily course of their lives, overturning its settled rhythms and conventional expectations.” That is why the angel cautions, “Do not be afraid.” Each of us is called to heed that message of courage and hope: Grace thrives amid strange and extraordinary events. Don’t let fear prevent you from experiencing the miraculous love and mercy God has in store for you.

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38. “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’ ”

Go ahead and ask

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Overheard in church: “I am not going to the reconciliation service this week because I haven’t sinned since the last one four months ago.” While most of us do not commit obviously grievous sins, we still “miss the mark” regularly in subtle ways, for example, by being angry or self-righteous. Although it is not easy or comfortable to admit that we are not perfect, our spiritual well-being depends upon it. May our prayer today be that we are made aware of the times and ways we have sinned so that we can ask for God’s mercy. For although God doesn’t wait to be asked before forgiving us, we cannot receive that forgiveness if we haven’t acknowledged our need for it.

Readings: Hosea 6:1-6; Luke 18:9-14. “The tax collector prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ ”

Blessed are the merciful ...

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Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

— Jesus, Matthew 5:7

Make the most of mercy

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Seeking mercy for others even when none has been shown you is a sure sign of holiness. Saint Frances of Rome (1384-1440) suffered tremendous trials, including the death of two of her children, her husband injured in battle, another son exiled, and her family fortune seized. Through all her suffering Frances extended loving care to the poor and sick of Rome. One of the rare saints called an exemplary wife and mother, Frances was an extraordinary neighbor as well. She rejected a noble’s life of frivolity and, instead, chose to dedicate herself to the service of others during a time of war, famine, and plague. What tender mercies can you offer today?

Readings: Daniel 9:4b-10; Luke 6:36-38. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged.”

It is mercy ...

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It is mercy, not justice or courage or even heroism, that alone can defeat evil.

— Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien

Have mercy on me!

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What does it mean to “throw oneself on the mercy of another?” It means admitting we are completely unprotected and need help. It means surrendering control over our future and accepting the present moment. It means trusting in the goodness of the one whose compassion we are asking for and having faith we might be good enough to deserve it. Hopefully, rare will be the times when we must throw ourselves on the mercy of another human being. But consider this: Might it be beneficial to throw ourselves consciously on the mercy of God every day?

Readings: Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Matthew 7:7-12. “Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord.”

Give your body a rest

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Being in the world and then removing ourselves for a time from the world are all part of the process of building God’s reign. Flesh and spirit are essential elements in Christian discipleship, as are justice and mercy and intimacy and awe. Knowing how to appropriately weave these elements in our daily lives is the role of wisdom. Give your attention to prayer, spiritual reading, and devotional practices. Ultimately your body and soul will be the stronger and wiser for it.

Readings: Sirach 2:1-11; Mark 9:30-37. "You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.”

I will trust ...

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I will trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.

— Psalm 52:8

Trust the past ...

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Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to his love, and the future to his providence.

— Saint Augustine of Hippo

Compassionate rule breaking

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Did you ever wonder why, when Jesus heals a leper, he always tells the guy not to say anything to anybody? Perhaps it is because the Good Lord broke a rule there. You see, according to the law of Moses, he wasn’t supposed to touch the leper. But he did. Jesus broke a lot of rules it seems. That’s why he got into so much trouble. But we’re thankful he breaks rules for us—such as, for instance, the rule about sin and death. As Jesus pointed out, the law was made for the sake of people, not the other way around. Mercy and compassion always manages to break a few rules.

Readings: 1 John 5:5-13; Luke 5:12-16.“He ordered him to tell no one.”

Please forgive me

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The problem with famous words is that their very familiarity can breed indifference. It’s one thing to know Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies. It’s quite another to realize Jesus is speaking to us. We are the ones who are called to love and forgive others: an insensitive brother-in-law, a conniving coworker, or a difficult neighbor. While in theory forgiveness sometimes seems very hard, it is only when we extend our hand in reconciliation that we realize nothing is as wonderfully freeing as forgiveness and nothing leads as directly to peace and harmony. We learn that it is not for God’s sake, or for the sake of our enemies, that we forgive. It is for ourselves. Whom do you need to forgive?

Readings: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9; Matthew 5:43-48. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

We shall only resist ...

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We shall only resist social injustice and the disintegration of community if justice and mercy prevail in our own common life and social differences have lost their power to divide.

— Hendrik Berkhof

Let them eat bread

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

Not too many princesses looked beyond the walls of their palaces to notice the poor—the people who more than likely made up most of those in her realm. But Elizabeth of Hungary did. Married in 1221 to Louis of Thuringia, a pious husband, she lived simply and devoted herself to works of mercy even though she was the wife of a ruler. After the death of her husband in battle, she left court, arranged for the care of her three children, and associated herself with the Franciscans. She established a hospital and cared for the sick until her early death at the age of 24. The symbols of her sainthood include bread and a pitcher. How do you reach out to give bread and pour the pitcher of charity to those in need?

Readings: Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5; Luke 18:35-43. “The blind beggar shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

The pearl of justice ...

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

The pearl of justice is found in the heart of mercy.

— Saint Catherine of Siena

Build on God’s foundation

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

The word kingdom, found in the frequently used New Testament phrase “kingdom of God,” comes from the Greek basileia, meaning “kingdom,” “reign,” or most literally “foundation.” Jesus laid God’s foundation among us, and Christians continue to build on that foundation through lives of love and service. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) desired to build her life on Christ: “Convert me, Jesus,” she wrote in her diary, “for if you do not make me a saint, I will not know how to work in your vineyard.” God’s kingdom comes each time we do the right thing—fight a just cause, serve the needs of our community, follow God’s command to forgive and show mercy. Without a desire to do God’s will, we will, in the words of Mother Cabrini, “end by betraying God’s interests, instead of rendering them successful.”

Readings: Philemon 7-20; Luke 17:20-25.“The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; for in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Among the attributes of God ...

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.

— Miguel De Cervantes

Expand the borders of your compassion

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

For many Catholics it is not a priority to find common ground with other Christians and to remain in loving and respectful relationships with people of all faiths. That’s regrettable because only mutual respect and knowledge of one another’s religious values and traditions can get us beyond suspicion of those who are “not like us.” Confronted by the needs of others, including sinners, lepers, and those who were seriously ill, Jesus saw beyond the religious restrictions of his ancestors and brought healing, forgiveness, and empowerment at all times. To overlook human suffering for the sake of religious tradition is nothing less than a sad disease of the heart.

Readings: Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17; Mark 3:1-6. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath?”

Give a care

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

You don’t have to be a saint to help others but having one as a model can be a big help. Why not check out Elizabeth Ann Seton, a saint who was born and raised in New York City in the late 1700s. She has a fascinating story—she was Episcopalian then Catholic, a wife and mother then a widow, and finally a Catholic sister and founder of a religious community. She is perhaps most remembered, however, as a person of compassion. She had learned well from her physician father to reach out to those in need. Caring for people at first in small ways helped Elizabeth develop a heart of compassion for all and a commitment to serving others.

Readings: 1 John 4:7-10; Mark 6:34-44. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”

A healing touch

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

Health-care workers and sick people remind us that when we visit the sick, it’s important to offer the comforting power of touch. So it makes sense that the crowds who followed Jesus also wanted to touch him and for him to touch them. They wanted to experience not only Jesus’ miracle-working power but also what lay beneath that power: God’s love for them, in their time of trouble, made concrete in the presence of Jesus. Human contact assures us we are not “untouchable,” and that assurance, in turn, advances healing. We may not feel like miracle-workers today, but we’re capable of gestures, signs, and words of compassion. And if those gestures flow from genuine love, healing will come.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11; Luke 6:12-19. “All in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.”

Difficult, Godlike—and necessary

Holy Year of Mercy reflection for your bulletin or website

Mark’s gospel does not include Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer, as he does in the other gospels. Like Matthew and Luke, however, Mark does show Jesus linking our own forgiveness to our willingness to forgive others. The Lord’s Prayer asks that God forgive us as we forgive others; those who seek forgiveness must be “forgivers” themselves. In Mark, Jesus says: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Jesus characterizes his own mission as handing himself over “so that sins may be forgiven.” We need forgiveness! How much we desire it! But at the same time we must be its vehicle to others, especially those who have hurt us.

Readings: 1 Peter 4:7-13; Mark 11:11-26. "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”