February 26, 2016


Knowing Jesus and his mercy and sharing it with others

Mercy has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason.

We’re several months into the Church’s Holy Year of Mercy, and at its heart is a plea for each of us as Christians to turn away from sin and seek God’s forgiveness. And, just as important, to offer mercy to those who have wronged us.

“God’s justice is his mercy,” Pope Francis wrote when he announced the Year of Mercy. “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.”

Recognizing that they have been treated with mercy by God, the Holy Father wrote, Christians are obliged to treat others with mercy. In fact, the Gospel says that Christians will be judged by the mercy they show others.

“At times, how hard it seems to forgive,” Pope Francis said. “And yet, pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”

Many of us may have rightly decided to focus on mercy during Lent, and two weeks into this liturgical season, a fair question to ask ourselves is: How are we doing?

As we ponder how to take the pope’s words to heart during the jubilee of mercy, the Lenten season seems like an appropriate time for all Catholics to spend more time practicing what traditionally have been called the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works are: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving drink to the thirsty and burying the dead. The spiritual works are: converting sinners, instructing the ignorant, advising the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries and praying for the living and dead.

During a special jubilee audience on Feb. 20 at the Vatican, Pope Francis again reminded his audience that “all of us are sinners, all of us!”

“Before God, we all have some fault. Yet we should not lose heart: He is close to us to give us comfort, mercy, forgiveness.”

Pope Francis also focused on the word “commitment” during the audience, both the commitment of God to save humanity and the commitment we Christians should have to share the Gospel in word and deed.

“When I make a commitment, it means that I assume a responsibility,” the pope said. And it also implies “an attitude of fidelity and dedication, of particular attention” to carrying out a certain task.

God is committed to humanity, the pope said, and the greatest sign of God’s commitment—his “extreme commitment” to humanity—is his decision to send his Son to save us, Pope Francis said. “In Jesus, God made a complete commitment to restoring hope to the poor, to those deprived of their dignity, to the foreigner, the sick, prisoners and to sinners, whom he welcomed with goodness.”

Christians, the Holy Father said, must make a commitment to ensuring others experience that closeness, mercy and forgiveness of God.

“This is especially true in situations of greatest need, where there is more of a thirst for hope,” he said. “For example, I am thinking of our commitment to people who are abandoned, those who have severe handicapping conditions, the seriously ill [and] the dying.”

It should come as no surprise that works of mercy are again brought to the forefront by our Holy Father, who consistently challenges us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

“We always must transmit the caress of God, because God has caressed us with his mercy,” Pope Francis continued. “Carry it to others, to those who need it, to those who are suffering in their hearts or are sad. Draw near to them with the caress of God, which is the same caress he has given us.”

May we use the remainder of Lent and beyond to heed the Holy Father’s advice, and share our love and forgiveness so they know no bounds.

—Mike Krokos

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