Waiting for God's Mercy in the Home Missions

Brother David Henley, vocation director

March 2016

"The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy."
—Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

Pope Francis’ designation of 2016 as a Holy Year of Mercy has already started to have extraordinary effects. A few priests I know have told me that they are seeing a greater number of people returning to the confessionals and celebrating their renewed relationships with God. One Glenmary priest told me that someone who had not participated in the sacrament of reconciliation for over 45 years recently attended a penance service at the local Catholic church. And a number of people I know who might be labeled as “non-practicing Catholics” have asked me what this Year of Mercy is all about. They are searching for forgiveness and a true experience of God’s merciful love.

I think that due to this holy year, the theme of mercy has been heard more resoundingly in the Gospel readings, moreso than I had ever noticed before. I wonder why we as a Church have waited so long to realize and accept God’s mercy by dedicating a special year to it. I think this year can truly remind our ministers that they need to feel compassion. As the Pope’s prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy states, we ministers need to “let everyone who approaches us feel sought after, loved and forgiven by God.”

For me, the theme of mercy in the Sunday Scriptures is even more noticeable during the Lenten season. On the fourth Sunday of Lent, we heard the “Parable of the Lost Son.” Pope Francis said that this parable makes up the “core of the Gospel and our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything.” And on the fifth Sunday of Lent this year, we will listen to the story of the “Woman Caught in Adultery.” Pope Francis said that “God forgives with a caress.” And more specifically regarding that particular Scripture, “He does not say to her: 'What did you do, when did you do it, how did you do it and with whom did you do it?'” Instead, he tells her “to go and sin no more. God’s mercy is great, God’s mercy is great: forgiving us by caressing us.”

How have you felt God’s forgiveness as a caress in your own life? Maybe God is now calling you to share that forgiveness, mercy and caress with the people of God in Mission Land, USA. If there are no missioners to serve, who will be the ones to share that message of God’s love with the lost, the poor, the oppressed and the forgotten? Who are better able to share that mercy with others than those who have experienced that mercy themselves? Who are better able to follow Pope Francis’ call to open “our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society—fringes which modern society creates”?

The people in Mission Land, USA, are on the outermost fringe of society and are waiting for missioners to reach out to them in order that they too can feel the warmth of God’s merciful love through those missioners’ presence.

Read previous columns by Brother David.