Season’s greetings to everyone. Here are a few thoughts from Paula ofs, National Minister.
We are into the Advent season already and the Year of Jubilee is almost upon us.
If you have not yet done so, search for the Jubilee Year of Mercy website and you will find the logo, an eplanation of the logo and lots of resources. The following is a paraphrased explanation of the logo:
The Son taking the lost soul on his shoulders. We see the love of Christ as the Good Shepherd who wants to touch our lives. He takes humanity upon himself yet his eyes and that of the lost soul’s merge. All can find their humanity in Christ.
The concentric ovals suggest the movement of Christ who carries humanity out of the night of sin and death. The deeper colour suggests the impenetrability of the love of the Father who forgives all.
Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction #2 gives us an idea of the richness of the meaning of “Mercy”.
“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. The word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental las that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
The experience of God’s unconditional love and mercy changed Francis of Assisi’s life forever and it a message he wanted everyone to hear. He spent his life spreading this message of joy. Pope Francis is giving us a renewed opportunity to be radically changed in this special year. There is a lot of material that has been produced to help us on this journey.
First to remind ourselves of some instances in which mercy is at the heart from the life and writings of Francis.
From the Life of Francis, Celano 1, Chap III #6 and #7
He prayed with all his heart that the eternal and true God guide his way and teach him to do his will. He endured great suffering in his soul…different thought followed one after another and their relentlessness seriously disturbed him. He was burning inwardly with a divine fire…He repented that he had sinned..he was not yet fully confident of refraining from future ones… One day when he had invoked the Lord’s mercy with his whole heart, the Lord showed him what he must do. He was filled with such great joy, failing to restrain himself in the face of his happiness.
And the Lord Himself led me among them (lepers) and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them what was bitter in me was turned into sweetness of soul and body
From The Letter to a Minister
I wish to know in this way if you love the Lord and me… that there is not any brother in the world who has sinned, who after he has looked into your eyes, would ever depart without mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not looking for mercy you would ask if he wants mercy….. always be merciful with brothers such as these.
The Sunday readings for the First Sunday of Advent include parts of one of the psalms of mercy, psalm 24 (25).
This psalm, these memories of Francis and our world situation today made me think how little human history has changed us. Just as we have been made so conscious recently of enemies who cannot see things the way we do, these remind me of how true this has always been. Faith in our merciful good God, the example of Francis, now the inspiration of Pope Francis, provide us with encouragement as we seek to grow in trust and love of God.
Just as the psalmist turned to God to show the way, teach him the right path, to walk in God’s truth and recognised God as Saviour, so Advent is a time of preparing for the coming of our Saviour, the Way, the Teacher, Goodness, Justice, Friend, the new Covenant. The Psalm mentions the humble and the poor, the characteristics that would inspire Francis and we see in our Pope Francis today.
As the psalmist brought God’s mercy to mind at a time of earnest supplication, I understand that he is writing, late in life, about enemies within and without. He is repentant of his own sin. Also he is seeking comfort and refuge in God, from the people in the world around him who have turned to other gods and make fun of his faith. He finds certain comfort in the constancy and refuge of the one God in Whom he has faith and hope. He knows that God is always ready to offer compassion and mercy for those who wait for Him and try to follow His ways. He believes that God will always offer a covenant, will always be faithful. The history of his people show him that this is true. God reveals all that each one needs to sustain those who trust and believe in Him. The psalmist was able to recall many experiences, from history, that reveal God’s mercy at times of earnest supplication.
One book I have been reading, “The Parables of Mercy”, one of the several Pastoral Resources for Living the Jubilee, has the following on page 20-21:
“ As for compassion and merciful love, the Lord acts with a maternal womb and knows how to love with the same intensity that a woman loves her own child. This kind of mercy characterizes the intimacy of God’s action and is a characteristic ‘from of old’. A characteristic written into God’s DNA so to speak.”
The psalm opened with the Psalmist lifting his soul, his entire being to God. The Church chose this as the opening prayer for Advent, Sunday, Year C. Our Francis and Pope Francis exhort us to do the same, to enter into a time of repentance, renewal and thanksgiving, praying with our whole heart and soul to God to show us His will and His way. All these sources reveal and give witness to their faith in our steadfast, merciful and loving God. May we grow and be strengthened in faith, love and mercy as we enter this exciting, challenging year of opportunity.
May God bless you and all those dear to you during this Advent Season and throughout the Jubilee Year.
Paula, 1sr December 2015.