For the opening of the Year of Mercy, I was late to mass. Late to mass! Imagine, this great event, once in a Jubilee, and I had even planned ahead to get out of work early – and still I was late to mass, and very late. Walking up to the mass-in-progress, I slid into the first empty sit, full of all sorts of tangled up feelings of self-condemnation and embarrassment. I gave it all to God, and eased into being present at the mass. Then, during the sign of peace, I turned around to discover several of my dearest friends all sitting together behind me. We embraced in the sign of peace, and I confessed my frustration with my own lateness to one of them. And her look in return to me was full of mercy. She squeezed my hand, and we continued in mass together. And my heart was transformed – the tangles were loosed, and I could freely look with God at my own part in coming late, and also freely accept His endless love in encounter with Christ in the Eucharist.
I experienced the mercy of our loving God that night through my dear friend. This is how we experience mercy – in knowing we are loved! The Door to Mercy is knowing we are infinitely and personally loved by God who is Love.
A few days later God’s mercy was made known to me again through another friend, who freely and with love pardoned my offenses against our friendship, and we were reconciled in that deep place of connection that only comes from a meeting of hearts. How great is our God who lives in us, whose infinite love in our hearts moves us with compassion to be merciful towards others, and as He is, merciful with ourselves!
The Holy Father said, in his bull to open the Year of Mercy:
“In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! 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. Let us therefore heed the Apostle’s exhortation: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). Above all, let us listen to the words of Jesus who made mercy an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7): the beatitude to which we should particularly aspire in this Holy Year.”
Let this Year of Mercy be a call for us to be merciful with others, as an outpouring of our experience of God’s mercy on us!
And let us take as our model of mercy, our Blessed Mother. In that same papal bull, Pope Francis has enthroned Mary as our natural mother and educator of mercy:
“The Holy Year will open on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. And so he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive”
Mary is a sign of God’s mercy. He shaped her from her conception to be the perfect bearer, mother and former of our Redeemer, even after we had abused our freedom and broken our relationship with Him. How can we invite Mary to be our Mother of Mercy today, right now, for this next coming year? We can ask her to educate us, to form us so that we can embody today her ancient echo of an answer to Elizabeth, when she proclaimed how she knew God’s mercy, out her experience of deep, personal love of God.
“The Almighty has done great things for me… He has upheld Israel, ever mindful of his mercy…” Do you know what this means? As an individual, as the member of a nation and as the member of a family, she swims in the ocean of God’s mercy. He will have mercy on his people!
God is almighty, all-merciful. He shows kindness and mercy. Just as simple as this is to say, is how deep this reality should cut into our lives. We, too, must swim in the ocean of God’s mercy, the ocean which he has opened to us as individuals and as a family. “The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” Our hearts have a deep longing to love and be loved. The story of our life is the story of our drive for love. When do we begin to love the most? When we believe we are loved, know we are loved, and feel loved. When does love catch fire in us? Whenever I meet someone who offers me his or her heart. This is why it is a telling feature of Our Lady that she does not deflect the attention away from herself through some false humility. She really swims in the ocean of God’s mercies. We, too, must be deeply convinced that God has done great things for us and has shown us bis love. This is a matter which is keenly personal. It ought to be our favorite thought to think again and again: He loves me! In general, the saints only began to become truly heroic when the conviction laid hold of them: God loves me. (Fr Joseph Kentenich, 1967)