Wednesday, December 9, 2015

“It is Mercy that I Desire!”

Pope Francis opening the Doors of Mercy; photo from the Vatican Radio Website
  It has begun! The Doors are open in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, and more will soon open throughout the whole world! Any sin (and every sin) can be forgiven! Don't wait, don't delay but run to a priest near you, a confessional, to the Sacred Heart of HIM who is your Lord, your Lover, Your Friend, your God! He who seeks you, awaits you and welcomes you to receive this Jubilee of Mercy; he yearns to cross-over the portal of your heart to bring you His Divine Love!

And can you imagine a more appropriate feast day than the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, for Pope Francis to begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church and the world? The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary can be called the beginning of our salvation, when the Mother of God was immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb so as to prepare a place for Divine Mercy to be enfleshed in our humanity— to be “like us in all things except sin! [1]

In his Apostolic Letter Misericordiae Vultus (“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy”), Pope Francis called for this Jubilee of Mercy, recalling that “When everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9).[2] It is in these beautiful words from St. John the Evangelist that we capture the true redeeming plan of our Heavenly Father and our own ultimate end: to be welcomed into the light of his Face forever (cf. Eucharistic Prayer II). This is what the Advent and Christmas Seasons reveal to us in the simplicity of a crèche scene we see so often displayed in homes, on town commons, on billboards, and even bumper stickers! This is what Christ has come to reveal: the Face of His Merciful Father!

Return of the Prodigal Son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

In calling for this Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis hopes that all the world may receive this gift of increased outpouring of the Father’s love, and might turn our hearts back to Him (and stop offending Him)! But, why does this take on particular significance for the Pauline? Why should it garner even more of our attention, enthusiasm and resolve to help our Holy Father proclaim it from the rooftops (cf. Matt 10:27)?

Well, we in the Pauline Family were born of His infinite Mercy in a time of great need for Mercy: when, at the turn of the 20th century, print media was being used to propagate atheism and godless ways, devoid of Mercy. It is the case that the Pauline Family has a universal call to be of service to the Holy Father. One might say that our Pauline charism is the expressed apostolic and spiritual work of using the modern media to be at the service of Mercy itself. Just as Divine Mercy was prepared for by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (in the womb of her mother St. Ann,) so was the Pauline Family born from the conception (small ‘c’) of Blessed James’ encounter with Jesus Master during the Night Between the Centuries[3]. It was here that Our Lord revealed that a great “army” would be formed to counter the growing movement and influence of those who used media to promote godless ways. And so began — if  only in the mind & heart of a young sixteen-year old seminarian — the Pauline Family for the purposes of preaching & teaching through modern means of media: Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life!

            So, how might we prepare each day for this great apostolic and spiritual work? We might consider looking at the Corporal Works of Mercy, the concrete visible ways one can both promote and receive mercy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that these works are: “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead” (CCC, 2447). Although it might seem easier to just promote the corporal works of mercy, it is far better that we take one and look to inculcate it into our regular way of living. For example, I might consider joining a small group or parishioners to make sandwiches for a local food pantry or help the local parish gather donated winter clothing for a local homeless shelter. Maybe I could bring Holy Communion to the homebound of my parish, or assist at parish funerals.
            Any of these ways, and more, help us to see that we must first become the hands of God’s tremendous Mercy for others before we can come to see His merciful face. We must look to show mercy towards another before we can hope to receive His Mercy. In the weeks ahead, let’s consider how each of us as Paulines can become the medium itself by which the Lord’s Mercy is proclaimed, so that our apostolic and spiritual works are fruitful for the coming of the Kingdom of God! Let us run towards this Jubilee of Mercy well aware that we can be made whole and be made one body in Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life!

[1] The Order of the Mass, Eucharistic Prayer IV, Para 3.
[2] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Para 1.
[3] December 31, 1900.

 If you are looking for resources to draw deeper into this Jubilee of Mercy, here is a link to Pauline Books and Media online bookstore with a whole selection of items on Mercy.

Fr. Ed Riley was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010, when he was appointed to the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director and Liaison in the Archdiocese to Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He recently made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.

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