November 11, 2016

Reflection / Natalie Hoefer

Comfort is found in viewing decision through lens of mercy

I was devastated when I heard the news that Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin was being moved to Newark. Nothing about the move made sense to me.

Surely Pope Francis knows how much his friend loves it here, loves his flock in central and southern Indiana, loves being close to “the mother of all Tobins.” And to move him after only four years? And to set the date of his new appointment such that our archdiocese will have no claim to his being a cardinal? It seemed like such a dour note upon which to end the Holy Year of Mercy.

But God’s ways are not our ways. When has God not made a plan that flies in the face of human logic? What greater lesson have we learned from this holy year, but that our God is a God of mercy?

All the human reasons that argue against this decision to move Cardinal-designate Tobin to Newark, they all fade in light of the mercy of this decision: mercy for our Catholic brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Newark. Their archdiocese has struggled with some hardships. They are in need of the compassionate, pastoral leadership that Cardinal-designate Tobin can offer. Through the sorrow, comfort can be found in viewing this decision through the lens of mercy.

We may be truly grieving to see him go, but his own motto comes to mind when considering how to move forward: “Rejoice in the Lord.” These are the words St. Paul wrote to the Philippians while he was enchained in prison.

Consider the reasons we have to rejoice: having been blessed by Cardinal-designate Tobin’s pastoral leadership for four years. Reading his wise words once a week in his column in The Criterion. Knowing the gift of feeling like the only person in the room when he’s talking with you, even if a long line of people await their turn. Having his example of mercy in ignoring the governor’s ban on Syrian refugees by providing a home for a young couple and their two small children. These are a cause for rejoicing in the Lord, who loaned us this shepherd for a time!

Our sadness in having to send him off is real. But so was the sorrow of the first Christian communities in saying farewell to the missionary Apostles. The departing Apostles always asked for the prayers of the community they were leaving. So, too, should we pray for Cardinal-designate Tobin, for God’s grace to help him be the shepherd the Archdiocese of Newark needs. And for the Newark Catholic community, that their faith flourishes and furthers the kingdom under Cardinal-designate Tobin’s leadership.

Christ himself admonished us not to worry. So rather than be anxious about the situation, let us rejoice in the Lord, pray for the archbishop and the people he’ll lead, and, as the Holy Year of Mercy closes, focus on the primacy of mercy over—and beyond—human logic.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we entrust Cardinal-designate Tobin to your care.

(Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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