My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we prepare to begin Lent in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we must be attentive to the “Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2016.” Our Holy Father has chosen the theme, “The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee,” citing the words that Jesus repeats in the Gospel of Matthew, the words of the Psalm, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” (Mt 9:13).
In this Year of Mercy, our Holy Father reminds us of this in his new book, “The Name of God is Mercy.” We do not know God by any other attribute but one that is merciful. Pope Francis reminds us that the mystery of Divine Mercy is revealed in the history of the Covenant between God and the people of Israel. Time and time again, the people of Israel broke the Covenant relationship, but God was always faithful to the Covenant and redeemed His unfaithful children. Finally, it was in the New Covenant made in the blood of Jesus Christ that the boundless mercy of God is shown by making Christ “mercy incarnate.” Yes, Jesus Christ is for us the true face of mercy, the face of God who is so merciful to us, who are sinners.
The time of Lent gives us an opportunity to recognize our sinfulness and to repent. The plan of action for Lent is always one of conversion. Our Holy Father tells us that “God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us through the experience of faithful love, to become merciful in turn.” This Lent, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will be the way to reawaken our conscience that sometimes has grown dull. It is especially in the works of charity that we will reconnect with the true purpose of Christian conversion.
Pope Francis describes the wonderful parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke where we find Lazarus begging at the doorstep of the rich man. The Pope tells us, “Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion.” The poor in the world need our assistance. At the beginning of Lent we normally take up the Catholic Relief Collection which assist those most in need from around the world and those in our own country who are marginalized. This is one concrete way that we can participate in reaching out to those who are poor.
Our Holy Father tells us, “In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness.” The words of Pope Francis serve for us as a guide during this Lent as we continue the journey of this Jubilee Year.
There is always more that we can do, more thoughtful and spiritual works that reflect the mercy of God, Himself. Our Lenten resolutions this year should reflect concrete ways in which we will accomplish corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our own life. In this statement, our Holy Father reminds us, “The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’” (Lk 16:29)
Yes, we have the words of our Holy Father, of the bishops, of our pastors and the words that are pleading with each other that we truly engage in the works of mercy. To be merciful means to put out from ourselves into the deep recesses of the very nature of God who is Mercy itself. During this Lent, we have the opportunity to become fellow co-workers with Christ, Himself, in reaching out to those most in need.