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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mnnews.today/aurora-magazine
In the coming days we will begin
marking the Year of Mercy that His
Holiness Pope Francis has proclaimed.
On 8 December he will inaugurate the
year by opening the Door of Mercy at
St Peter 's Basilica and on the following
Sunday, as he opens a similar door
at the cathedr al church of Rome, St
John Later an, a Door of Mercy will be
opened at each cathedr al around the
world, including, of course, our own
Sacr ed Hear t Cathedr al at Hamilton.
For a year, then, church life will focus
on celebrating the God who has been
revealed as forever the Merciful One.
One difficulty for the Pope will be
conveying what is meant by 'mercy'.
Our idea of mercy tends to revolve
around old images of Roman emperor s
tur ning their thumbs up, of a knight
suddenly withdrawing his sword point
from his opponent's throat, of hanging
judges deciding at the last minute to
send a felon to Austr alia r ather than the
gallows. These are images of a rather
cold exercise of imperious authority.
Pope Fr ancis might r ather like us to
imagine a merciful judge, for example,
longing to see some sign of penitence
in the criminal and, having seen it,
descending from the bench to embr ace
him as a brother and set him at liber ty
to live a new and better life. But, of
cour se, he has better images to use
The Holy Father's shor t letter
announcing the Year of Mercy,
Misericordiae Vultus, is a little
ma sterpiece of teaching about the God
of mercy. He quickly r ehear ses many of
the biblical texts that str ess the mercy-
fullness of God, finding a constant
revelation of a God who is "present,
close, provident, holy and merciful".
And ultimately, of cour se, "Jesus Christ
is the face of the Father's mercy. These
words might well sum up the myster y
of the Christian faith....On the other
hand, sad to say, we must admit that the
pr actice of mercy is waning in the wider
culture. In some cases the word seems
to have dropped out of use." So, "the
Church is commissioned to announce
the mercy of God, the beating hear t of
the Gospel....The Church's fir st truth
is the love of Christ....In our parishes,
communities....wherever there are
Christians, everyone should find an
oasis of mercy."
In those last words above, however, I
think there may lie another challenge
for the Pope's Year of Mercy in places
like Austr alia. We ar e pragmatists
and doer s. We will want to tur n the
year into a series of things we must
do, programs we must run, changes
we must make. In other words, we
will automatically want to make the
Year of Mercy all about us, a sort of
Christian self-improvement cour se. To
do this would, I believe, cut the hear t
out of the Pope's initiative. Yes, the
Year of Mercy is supposed to change
us. But in the first place, it is about
our hearing the Word of God's mercy,
about experiencing the war mth of
God's loving kindness and forgiveness
for ourselves. "We need constantly to
contemplate the myster y of mercy. It is
a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace."
We must first feel the mercy of God
before we r ush around tr ying to do
mercy. How hard is that for Austr alians!
'Just tell us what we have to do.' But
gentleness, patience, forgiveness , love
and faithfulness all come from within
us, come from the hear t that has been
changed by knowing the mercy of God.
We can't just jump into doing stuff,
however instinctive that may be for us.
The Christian life is always Eucharistic. It
begins, like our Ma ss, with a realisation
of our need for mercy. It is founded
on hearing the Word of God's mercy.
At its hear t is thanksgiving for the
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experience of Christ being among us
as the expression in real life of God's
mercy. And at the end, but not at the
very first moment, we are sent out to
share the mercy of God with the world.
The Year of Mercy is a call in the first
place to open ourselves up to receive
God's mercy. Then, having experienced
God's faithfulness to us , his patience and
forgiveness, then we under stand what
it means to "Be merciful, as your Father
is merciful." May the 'YoM' be a great
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