Thank you for subscribing to Emmanuel, “The Magazine of Eucharistic Spirituality,” in this Jubilee of Mercy. Remember that a gift subscription to Emmanuel makes a thoughtful Christmas gift for priests, deacons, religious, and Catholic laity.
Sixteen and a half-years ago when Pope John Paul II canonized the Polish nun and mystic Maria Faustina Kowalska, Catholics everywhere began talking about Divine Mercy, and images of Christ with warm rays of light emanating from his outstretched arms appeared in churches and chapels around the world, as in her visions. I often thought to myself that it was as if the church and the world had suddenly discovered mercy!
It’s understandable, I suppose. We live in an age when people often seek to supplement their experience of the church’s liturgy and public prayer with a variety of private devotions.
As we near the end of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Christ the King, we might ask ourselves, what exactly is the net result of it all? Is it simply to be reminded of mercy and to allow it to enter again into our thinking and our theological language?
Pope Francis counters this perception in Misericordiae Vultus, where he writes: “We will entrust the life of the church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year . . . be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!”
The key to the holy year, then, is not the discovery of mercy, but “that the year . . . be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!” And the Holy Father enumerates certain practical strategies for doing this.
I take away from this jubilee two powerful convictions. The first is about God. It is a heightened awareness that the fundamental posture of God toward creation, and everyone in it, is one of mercy. God, the Lover, is absolutely extravagant in bestowing mercy, not distinguishing those who are “worthy” from those who are not, but lavishing it abundantly upon all. This is revealed especially in Jesus, “the face of mercy,” who was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and who died even for Judas and Peter, and for you and me.
The second is about us. If we wish to be truly like Jesus (and therefore like the Father), we must “suspend judgment” in approaching others and, instead, view them as God does, as fully deserving of our time, our patience, our ministry, our compassion. The Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn 4:3-42) is a prime example of this. Everyone but Jesus regarded her with disdain; he saw her as a precious daughter of God and touched her deepest needs with unconditional love and acceptance.
Creation is hungry for such mercy. May the church be, as Pope Francis has prayed, the servant of mercy and the embodiment of it!
Starting in January
I am very pleased to announce that a team of three biblical and pastoral theologians, all associated with Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, will write our reflections on the Sunday readings during the year 2017. They are: Dianne Bergant, CSA, the Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Old Testament Studies; John R. Barker, OFM, Assistant Professor of Old Testament Studies; and Barbara Shanahan, director of the Catholic Biblical Studies Program in the Diocese of Buffalo. We are deeply grateful to them for taking on this project for us.
At the same time, I thank Anthony Marshall, SSS, for writing the biblical reflections for the concluding three-year cycle. It’s a monumental task of about 180 columns over that span of time, and he has done admirably. Anthony is a young priest and preacher, and he loves the word of God and the church.
Blessings on your Advent and Christmas seasons!
Anthony Schueller, SSS