“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy,” Pope Francis says in opening his papal bull: Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy). Does this remind us of the motto (“Merciful like the Father”) he chose for the Jubilee Year of Mercy (8 December 2015 – 20 November 2016)? It comes from Luke 6:36, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” Here, we can say that “mercy” is the Holy Father’s answer to evil, following the teaching of St. John Paul II who, in his last book, “Memory and Identity”, wrote: “The limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately Divine Mercy.” Following this lead, Pope Francis explained that the Jubilee of Mercy provides an opportunity for us to come in contact with our merciful God and to experience His forgiveness, His tenderness and to let others know about it and bring others to Him.
In the readings today, the Church presents us with the theme of God’s steadfast love and unending mercy in relation to a sinner’s repentance. The First Reading from the Prophet Micah (7:14-15,18-20), a contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah. The passage consists of a prayer, which appears to be from the time after the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon (537 BC), when the people were still few in number and were surrounded by hostile nations. The prayer is a plea for God to take care of his beleaguered people. This prayer was made with confidence because God is quite unlike any other: “What god can compare with you: taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy?” The people may at times deserve the anger of God but it will never last, for God loves his people too much. In fact, it is difficult to conceive now of a God who responds in anger when his people sin. It is never He who distances himself from us; however, it is we who are unfaithful. The reality illustrates what Jesus tells us about God in the Gospel (cf. Luke 15:1-3,11-32). The parable of the Merciful Father is, along with the parable of the Good Samaritan, the best-known of Jesus’ many parables. These parables mirror the intensity of the mercy of God, a heavenly Father who is always ready with open arms to welcome us back and restore our lost dignity.
Dear friends in Christ, the younger son is a reminder, especially during the season of Lent, that we need the sacrament of Confession in order to be fully restored to life in the family of God, the Church, for our ‘God is compassion and love’, as stated by today’s Psalmist [cf. Ps. 102(103):1-4,9-12]. Of our God, the Psalmist continues: “He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults. It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion.”
May this Lenten season fill us with God’s grace to recognize our shortcomings and the necessity of embracing the infinity mercy of God at the Confessional, an encounter with Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy, and also learn to be merciful ourselves.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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