Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016. this act of mercy must be the
distinguishing mark of the Christian, as it is the characteristic attribute of the Perfect God toward his (very) imperfect creatures:
“In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society:
fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today!
How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by
the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them
with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy, and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into
humiliating indifference, or a monotonous routine, that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive
cynicism! Let us open our eyes, and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters, who are denied
their dignity, and let us rec-ognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them, and
support them, so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our
own, and to-gether may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme, and mask our hypocrisy
and egoism!”—Pope Francis, Misericordiae V ultus §15.
Pope Francis has also asked the faithful to reflect on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He draws our attention to the older
son, who has honored the father’s wishes and so becomes angry when his brother is received home with such joy. Francis
calls us to enter into the Father’s celebrations, conscious of our own sinfulness and need for forgiveness. The Pope also
recounts the Parable of the Wicked Servant in his papal bull, a ruthless man who begs and receives forgiveness for squandering
his master’s money and then denies that same forgiveness to an-other who commits a similar transgression. The
Pope warns that we will be called to account for our refusal to bestow mercy as we have received it from the Father.
Ways of Being Merciful
- Share your things with the needy.
- Do something kind and helpful for someone who you don’t get along with, or who has wronged you.
- Be generous enough to allow someone to help you; people need to feel needed.
- Recall a time you were not given a benefit of a doubt, and extend one to someone else.
- Take advantage of sales to buy small toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, socks and feminine products/toiletries; donate them, or
- make gift bags and have them ready to hand out where needed.
- Make a point to smile, greet or make conversation with someone who is not in your everyday circle.
- Offer to pray with someone, even someone you encounter on the street or public transport who looks like they could use it.
- See homeless persons as real people, each one a separate and unique individual.
Practicing mercy in our lives actually does take practice.