Homily of Pope Francis on the Year of Mercy

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1 Homily of Pope Francis on the Year of Mercy We are united with so many Christians, who, in every part of the world, have accepted the invitation to live this moment as a sign of the goodness of the Lord. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, in fact, allows us with confidence to draw near to the Father, in order to be certain of his pardon. He really is rich in mercy and extends his mercy with abundance over those who turn to him with a sincere heart. To be here in order to experience His love, however, is first of all the fruit of his grace. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, God never ceases to show the richness of His mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is God's gift, it is His work (cf. Eph 2:8-10 The Gospel of Luke (7:36-50) opens for us a path of hope and comfort. It is good that we should feel that same compassionate gaze of Jesus upon us, as when he perceived the sinful woman in the house of the Pharisee. In this passage two words return before us with great insistence: Love and judgment. There is the love of the sinful woman, who humbles herself before the Lord; but first there is the merciful love of Jesus for her, which pushes her to approach. Her cry of repentance and joy washes the feet of the Master, and her hair dries them with gratitude; her kisses are pure expression of her affection; and the fragrant ointment poured out with abundance attests how precious He is to her eyes. This woman s every gesture speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakeable certainty in her life: That of being forgiven, and Jesus gives this assurance: welcoming her, he demonstrates God s love for her, just for her! Love and forgiveness are simultaneous: God forgives her much, everything, because she loved much (Luke 7:47); and she feels that in him there is mercy and not condemnation. Thanks to Jesus, God casts her many sins away behind him, He remembers them no more (cf. Is 43:25). For her, a new season now begins; she is reborn in love, to a new life. Simon the Pharisee, on the contrary, cannot find the path of love. He stands firm upon the threshold of formality. He is not capable of taking the next step to go meet Jesus, who brings him salvation. Simon limited himself to inviting Jesus to dinner, but did not really welcome Him. In his thoughts, he invokes only justice, and in so doing, he errs. His judgment on the woman distances him from the truth and does not allow him even to understand who guest is. He stopped at the surface, he was not able to look to the heart. Before Jesus parable and the question of which a servant would love his master most, the Pharisee answered correctly, The one, to whom the master forgave most. And Jesus does not fail to make him observe: You have judged rightly. (Luke 7:43) Only when the judgment of Simon is turned toward love then is he in the right.

2 The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert. Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an Extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord's words: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36) This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and living face of the Father s mercy. I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time. From this moment, we entrust this Holy Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey. Pope Francis We have been reflected since August the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis and have been preparing for the Year of Mercy prayer, ritual rites and remembrances, and catechesis of the meaning of mercy. Since this wonderful year of grace begins on Wednesday on Feast of the Immaculate Conception a weekday, we wanted to observe the beginning of the Year of Mercy on a Sunday so many of our parishioners are able to be present and gather in merciful prayer. Therefore, we have chosen Sunday, December 6 th, the Second Sunday of Advent at 9:30 AM to celebrate the beginning of the Year of Mercy at Saint Angela Merici. All the Fathers and Deacons as well as all of the music groups of the Parish and Parish School as well as students and parents will be participating and be present. This coming year will be a time of special grace. Please mark your calendars and join us to celebrate the beginning of the Year of Mercy at 9:30 AM on the Second Sunday of Advent, Sunday, December 6 th. Hospitality will follow in the Plaza.

3 Each year we gather as a Faith Community to give thanks to God for the bounty and blessings we have received. Since August we have been preparing for this very special time in the Church when we celebrate the mercy and compassion of our God extended to all people: It is the Year of Mercy. Our monthly preparation for this year of grace has enabled us to embrace even more fully the mercy we have all experienced from God and each other and has challenged us not only to be merciful but to be MERCY to one another. Thanksgiving is a merciful moment to reflect not merely on what we have received, but the Stewardship of what we can give. No. Not money, but the stewardship of ourselves given and received in mercy to one another by allowing God to transform us into a People of Mercy, and extending an invitation in mercy to others to come home and experience the embrace of God s merciful heart. Please join us as we gather on Thanksgiving Morning for Eucharist at 9 AM. The Boxes of Joy-Mercy we have been collecting during the Month of November will be ritually blessed at our Thanksgiving Eucharist and distributed to Catholic World Outreach through the Diocese of Orange. All of us have guests and meals to prepare, but even in the midst of the business of this day there must certainly be at least one hour we can give in mercy to ourselves and extend mercy to others by inviting at least one person to attend Eucharist with us on Thanksgiving Day. Celebrate the Year of Mercy by expressing thanks to God and be his heart of mercy by bringing one person home as we begin the holiday season!

4 WHICH KINGDOM RULES OUR HEART? Important questions tend to get lost in the frenzy of modern life. Lofty abstractions, such as Christ The King, seem far removed from the demands of daily living in which most of us are immersed. The Gospel presents us with the familiar story of Jesus standing before Pilate in an exchange about the kingship of Jesus, which is why it was chosen for this feast. If we simply take the story literally, we can easily miss some important questions which may not be entirely obvious. The hidden dynamic of this familiar story is the seeming conflict between righteousness and mercy. Jesus embodies the mercy of God, Pilate symbolizes the power of might makes right. In the ancient world, kings were not subject to laws. A king transcended and pronounced laws and was not held accountable to them. If Jesus was a king, Pilate would actually have no jurisdiction over him, and would have been required to refer the matter to Caesar. Hidden within the interchange of Jesus and Pilate is the unasked question about the nature of the kingdom in which Jesus was king. Is it a kingdom of righteousness or mercy? In this context, righteousness is surrendering the expectation of mercy, and mercy is surrendering the expectation of righteousness. The two are antithetical. This may seem abstract, but this dynamic tears families apart even today. For instance, a member of one s family may act in a way that offends the expectations of other members of the family. The parable of the Prodigal Son could be an example of this. Rational members of the family, understandably indignant of the unwanted behavior, will reprovingly judge the wayward offender. Compassionate members of the same family may maintain relations with the offender, much to the consternation of those who wish to condemn the behavior. Such conflicts can last a lifetime, unless some circumstance occurs to alter the stalemate. This is where the question of which kingdom rules our heart? If Christ is King, which kingdom is his: righteousness or mercy? As we prepare for the Holy Year of Mercy, this is the question that arises before us. Do we mercilessly hold one another accountable for our myriad offenses, demanding retribution in the name of justice or do we, in mercy, surrender our right to judge at all and simply allow God the responsibility of sorting it out? Mercy is a spiritually demanding stance, which can easily offend even our own sense of fairness. This is where the Beatitudes may enter in (Matthew. 5: 6-7): Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. From the standpoint of the Beatitudes, we can see that the Kingdom of Christ transcends all dichotomies, which invites us to simply surrender our dearly held expectations. This is what lies at the heart of mercy, and the heart of the Kingdom. As we prepare for the coming Holy Year of Mercy, we will be asked to enter into our own hearts and discover which kingdom rules us. Are we willing to take the time and effort to actually determine the nature of our journey, or are we going to go along as we have always done and dismiss it as just another program? Peace! Chuck Andersen Worship Council

5 Walking into a human situation that we can easily identify with and understand can sometimes be consoling. We relate to the particulars of an event or experience and know how to respond or what to expect, and yet on the other hand, it can also be very disturbing simply because it can challenge how we have always understood how to address situations that are familiar to us. Perhaps the way we have always done it is the reason we continue to experience these types of events going south because we have never considered there might be an alternative or another way of looking, understanding, and responding to a human situation that we experience over and over again. In the word this weekend we encounter several people who are not confined with any limits until it is pointed out to us by the story that their generosity has its limits. The Gospel story enables us to be spectators to an incident in the temple. There is a collection (sound familiar?). The crowd is placing their stewardship... in the treasure (Mark 12) and truly they appear to be generous. The story states:...many rich people put in large amounts (Mark 12), but then the story shifts radically. You might think that someone would be standing by the collection basket gratefully acknowledging the generosity of those who were giving a substantial amount, however, to our surprise, and I am sure to the dismay of those who were within ear shot, Jesus states:... I say to you this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury (Mark 12). How much does she give? Only (???) her last two coins (Mark 12). One can only imagine how the crowd might have reacted and all the chatter about how much they give verses Jesus comment, but Jesus was pointing out something very human and very familiar: Those who shared their stewardship generously did so, (I am sure with good intent), but it did not affect or make a difference not only in the way they lived their lives, perceived what they had received, or allow them to pause about how those who lived with less might experience life. The widow, Jesus states:... gave from her poverty... her whole livelihood (Mark 12). In other words, those who gave what appeared to be so overly generous did so without any demonstrative effect on the way they experienced life, but this unnamed (again interesting that she is not named) widow gave from her only limitation: her poverty (Mark 12). In the Book of Kings, the prophet Elijah pushed the limits of the starving widow beyond the horizons which could have ever been imagined or what she might expect from God! Like the women in the Gospel story, she too only had a handful of flour and a little oil (1Kings 17) and the prophet Elijah asked her for all that she had: Water and a handful of bread. What does Elijah say:... do not be afraid (1Kings 17). Can you imagine what this widow must be thinking? She not only had to be concerned about herself, but she needed to think of her child. The prophet seemed to ask more than what she could ever possibility think she can give. Should she give all she has or refuse to honor his demands? Just as in the Gospel story, this widow also gave it all! (1Kings 17) she too gave it all! It seems to me, what is being suggested in these two very human, but unusual responses is that when we are willing to push the limits of our faith we will begin to realize what we never, ever could have imagined; however when we set limits on our faith we compromise the potential of what God might do for us and what we might receive in abundance beyond what we thought we could ever process. I believe all too often we set limitations on our vision, actions, and our generosity (and I do not mean money). In other words, we choose to refuse to risk. These two women took a chance. They not only gave it all, they gave all they had without regard to the consequences. They were not foolish! No. They believed. Their faith overrode how most of us might have responded in this circumstance either from past experience or common sense, but to the widows surprise because they made the decision in faith to venture beyond their limitations and they opened the flood gates of God s abundance: The woman in the Gospel was publically recognized by Jesus, and I am positive her life changed as a result and took a turn she never imagined as did the widow who was able to eat for a year and her jar did not go empty (1Kings 17 & Mark 12). Very often we believe we hold back because we might miss an opportunity, but what we forget is the missing-link: When we think, act, and respond in this way we also limit our experience of God. We limit what can be. We limit what is possible. We limit what might happen. We limit God s generosity in our lives. In other words, we would rather be safe than see what God will provide when we are willing to break ranks and reach beyond the limits we have set in our lives. The saddest editorial in life, is to have never experienced what could have been because we prefer to hold onto what we have, rather than in faith discover just how much more is possible. So, what are our limitations? It seems to me to answer this question will say much about our capacity of receiving and giving and ultimately give credence to the limitation we have set in our lives with God. Father Michael-Dwight

6 MERCY: PRAY IT FORWARD Most people, most of the time, prefer certainty in their everyday affairs. Frequently, though, things that are not supposed to happen, do and things that are supposed to happen don t. Such occasions can be distressing; however, the one absolutely certain event for each of us is celebrated this weekend, All Saints and All Souls. Few of us will ever be recognized as saints, so we shall mostly fit into the category of All Souls. In our Catholic spirituality, we pray that the saints will have mercy and intercede for us, while we in turn have mercy on the departed and pray for them, whatever their status may be. If any of that truly matters, we can only hope that future ages will continue to have mercy and pray for us, should we need such prayers. The idea of mutual mercy appears whenever we profess the Penitential Act (I Confess) at Eucharist. After we acknowledge that we have sinned, we ask our blessed Mother, the angels and saints, and particularly beseech one another to pray for me to the Lord our God. The question is, Do we? When we pray for one another, we are being merciful to one another, yet few of us actually notice when we say those words, let alone act on it. When you stop to think of it, Catholic spirituality is largely about mercy. Sure, we pray for mercy for ourselves, but particularly in our worship, we pray for one another quite a bit. In 2010, we focused upon the notion of Paying It Forward as a form of spiritual practice. This was an idea that captured the imagination of many people. As we prepare to enter the Holy Year of Mercy, perhaps we can think of this particular feast as an opportunity to PRAY It Forward as we remember all the souls who have passed before us. While our death is a certainty, most people prefer not to think about it all that much. Many of us grew up with the idea of indulgences to help people get out of Purgatory. Whether praying for the deceased actually has intrinsic value, or not, the practice is one of applied mercy. We believe that prayer has power, now and in the hereafter. What it undoubtedly does is insert another certainty in life: we can count on the fact that there will always be people praying for us, whether or not we benefit from their prayers. Praying for one another is definitely an act of mercy, particularly if we pray for people who wouldn t generally fit into our consciousness. There are people we don t like, don t agree with, and don t approve of all around us. In previous weeks, we discussed the idea that mercy is surrendering the right to be right. What that means is more than just not standing in judgment of others, in the Gospel sense, it means actually praying for those who trouble us. Are they not All Souls even while they are among us? Mercy means praying for the living as well as the deceased not as an inducement for them to change or be better, but simply because they are part of our mercy outreach even now. Praying It Forward has no boundaries. Let us pray, without ceasing, for everyone, not just those in specific need. Mercy invites us to consciously pray for individuals and groups of people who bother us or make us feel uncomfortable. This is never easy and falls within that category of love your enemies. In this regard, mercy is a tall order. With the aid of the angels and saints, let us, in mercy, Pray It Forward. Chuck Andersen Worship Council

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