This Second week of Advent we begin what Pope Francis has declared as the Year of Mercy. In this year we are to be open to recognize the mercy of God more fully in our lives. The act of sealing the Holy Door a few months ago at St. Peter’s Basilica (as it was done at numerous cathedrals and basilicas around the world, including ours) was not done to close anyone off, but rather so that when they are opened, as they will be for this Year of Mercy, we can have a physical symbol of walking through a Door of Mercy, to know of God’s love that pardons and gives hope.
It may be easiest throughout this year to just focus on God’s mercy for each of us, but that would be greatly limiting what this year is meant to be. In his document proclaiming a Year of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis states:
“I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”
This means that we are not just to be open to God’s mercy for ourselves, but that we most effectively witness to that fact by being open to be instruments of God’s mercy in the world.
It only makes sense that if we experience mercy, and we truly recognize that this is what is being given to us, that we should desire to do the same for another. This is the instruction Jesus gave us in the parable of the ruthless servant who is shown mercy but then turns around and is ruthless to those he has power over, and then the master withdraws his mercy from that servant (MT 18:21-35). But God is always shown in Scripture as most joyful when he is able to show mercy. Not only is that an encouragement for us to be open to God’s mercy, but also a reason why God wants us to experience that same joy by being merciful to one another.
Pope Francis even gave this holy year a motto, Merciful like the Father. I will come back to this topic throughout the year with examples of how God’s mercy is in our lives, but also with examples of how we can show God’s mercy to one another. I think just going through the Spiritual and the Corporal works of Mercy will probably give us plenty of material. As we go through this year and seek to see the ways God is offering us mercy, hopefully we will also be able to recognize and desire to take advantage of the opportunities we have to be merciful with one another.
P.S. Happy St. Nick’s Day.