Be merciful just as your heavenly father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
As we approach the season of Advent, we also anticipate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis beginning on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Mercy is at the heart of Pope Francis’s teaching. From the beginning of his papacy, the Holy Father has emphasized that mercy and forgiveness are the heart of the Gospel. In a homily from last May, Pope Francis said: “For the love of Jesus Christ: never tire of being merciful! Have the ability to forgive that the Lord had. He came not to condemn but to forgive. Be greatly merciful!”
In his proclamation of the Year of Mercy, he wrote: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
These are very powerful words that call each of us to reflect on our own lives and how we interact with students, parents and colleagues. Every one of us needs God’s mercy and the mercy we ask of God is the mercy we must show to others.
As we prepare for the great feast of Christmas, we remember that Christ came into the world to show us how much God loves us and to show us how to live. Advent is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to reflect on how well we are following Jesus’s example, particularly in so far as we show God’s mercy to others.
It was no surprise that in his address to Congress, Pope Francis chose Dorothy Day as an example of someone who clearly understood God’s presence in her life. In one of my favorite quotes, she wrote: “I cannot worry much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of my own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow sufferers. . . . My prayer from day to day is that God will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in His love.”