Pope Francis is truly a “pope of mercy”; he has focused the Church’s attention on the theme of mercy and the poor. His document, Misericordiae Vultus (MV) (The Face of Mercy), proclaimed an entire year of mercy, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the close of Vatican II (1962-1965). Francis says: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace…. Mercy [is] the bridge that connects God and man” (MV 2).
God, Father of Mercy. Scripture clearly affirms that God is “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation” (2 Cor 1:3). Our God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). One of Jesus’ best-known parables found in today’s Gospel is that of the “merciful father” (though often known as the parable of the prodigal son): Lk 15:11-32. The magnanimous father shows his overflowing love, mercy and compassion to both of his sons.
Jesus, Face of the Father’s Mercy. In Jesus of Nazareth, mercy has become living and visible. Indeed, whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus’ entire life and “his person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously…. The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (MV 8). Jesus “felt deep compassion” for the crowds (Mt 9:36). Jesus spoke many parables devoted to mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (Lk 15:4-7, 8-10, 11-32).
Church, Community of Mercy. “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.” (MV 11). “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel…. Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (MV 12).
Mary, Mother of Mercy. “My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy…. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh…. She treasured divine mercy in her heart…. Her hymn
of praise (Lk 1:46-55) was dedicated to the mercy of God…. At the foot of the cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him shows us the point to which the mercy of God can reach” (MV 24).
Our Practice of Mercy. Mercy is demanding; it is not easy; yes, its demands are often inconvenient and unpredictable; it impinges on our personal plans and schedules. Mercy is not only giving things, but giving ourselves. Become rich—rich in mercy!
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Prayer for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Name of God, eternal font of mercy,
I come before the throne of grace
your unworthy and humble servant
begging forgiveness, wisdom and healing.
With open hands and open heart
I bow before your infinite love
ready to receive all blessings or burdens
with which you may give me confident Jesus,
your Son and our Lord, will stay by my side and help
me bear all my crosses with dignity and peace.
Extend your mercy to our church
that we may welcome others into
our family of faith with open arms.
May Mary, mother of mercy,
be a safe and secure haven
against all temptations and evils
the world flings against us
that we might stand firm against
all trials and tribulations
and extend your mercy to everyone
we meet this day.
In Jesus’ Name we pray.
By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.