GOD’S MERCY FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
“All in the April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.”
When Pope Francis was asked what was the most important thing a believer should do during the Holy Year of Mercy, he replied: “He should open up to the mercy of God, open up his heart and himself, and allow Jesus to come towards him by approaching the confessional with faith, and he should try to be merciful to others.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux prayed: “O Good Jesus, when distress has made me weep, have you not anointed my wounded conscience with the ointment of your mercy and poured in the oil of gladness?” God’s forgiveness is a chance to start again. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we meet the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer – Mercy.
In his autobiography, ‘Serious Sounds’, John Moriarty speaks of his experience when he received the Sacrament of Penance, i.e. when he went to Confession. It took place at a retreat centre. He said he had been listened to as he had never been listened to before. “I felt,” he said, “not just within a monastic cell but within a sacrament. I sensed that already there was healing in the priest’s sacramental listening.” Twenty years afterwards he was still trying to imagine, still trying to inherit, what happened to him then. No psychiatrist or counsellor could have done for him what he needed most – “They couldn’t have absolved me,” he said. As he walked away through the monastery grounds, he was aware that no shadow of his former life darkened his soul.
Pope Francis recalls the event in John’s Gospel where the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus with a woman who had committed adultery. According to the Law of Moses, such a woman should be stoned. Jesus invited the one without sin to throw the first stone. One by one, her accusers left the scene, until nobody remained but Jesus and the woman– ‘mercy’ and ‘misery’. Jesus tells the woman to go in peace. The woman’s accusers were not looking for justice – they simply wanted to trap Jesus.
When the hungry multitudes were following Jesus his apostles came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages…but he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” A similar challenge faces European leaders today. Pope Francis is drawing our attention to the plight of our brothers and sisters who are trying to find their way across dangerous territory and sea, fleeing from violence and starvation in their homeland. How are we responding to today’s challenges?
After the death of Jesus, the apostles were filled with grief, trying to make sense of all that had happened to the One in whom they had placed their trust. Pope Francis reminds us that Mary “treasured divine mercy in her heart”– her hymn of praise “sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth” was dedicated to the mercy of God which “extends from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
Sr. Catherine Moran