December 8 marks the beginning of a special jubilee year in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has called it a Year of Mercy. We are encouraged to think about the meaning of mercy and to apply it to our daily lives so as to deepen our faith.
The word mercy has many meanings: kindness, compassion, forgiveness, relieving the burdens of others in some way. For a Christian it isa response to God who is merciful.
Mercy is in fact at the heart of the life of every Christian; we celebrate it, we ask for it and we are called to show it.
We begin the Year of Mercy by thinking about God who created the world and all that exists out of his goodness; we think of how mankind took life for granted and turned away from God and became self-destructive; we think of the merciful God who even allowed his Son to be sacrificed so that we could be brought back.
As we can see, there is nothing new in the Year of Mercy, it is about deepening our understanding of God and celebrating his mercy.
The second aspect of the year is asking God for mercy.
We do this at the beginning of every Mass as we say ‘Lord, have mercy’ together. We ask God to prepare our hearts for worthy worship, to forgive our sins and to give us the virtues and gifts we lack. What is pleasing to God comes from a generous and humble heart and the opposite is also true.
The third aspect of the Year of Mercy is sharing what we have received.
In very practical ways we are called to show mercy; Jesus teaches us to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the stranger, to heal the sick, to visit the imprisoned, to bury the dead.
Also we are to counsel the doubtful, teach those who seek, rebuke public sinners, forgive offences, show patience to those who do us ill.
There is plenty to work at in this year of Mercy.
We will be asking ourselves: how can I be merciful in my thoughts, words and deeds ?
We will try to keep the words of Jesus in our minds: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.