This year, your Parish Feast Day celebration theme is, “Mary, Mother of Mercy.” St Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, says, Mary is Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God's (infinite) Mercy (cf. Jn 3:16-18).
Christ came not to condemn but to forgive and to show Mercy (cf Mt 9:13). /No human sin can erase the mercy of God. Regardless of the great obstacles that are put in His way by human frailty and sin, the Spirit will renew the face of the earth (cf Ps 104:30). This renewal gives us the ability to do what is good, noble, beautiful, pleasing to God and in conformity with His Will . . . it offers us liberation from the slavery of evil and strength to sin no more. (ref. encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993), St Pope John Paul II.
On the theme of Mercy, I would like to begin with what Pope Francis shared in his latest book, “The Name of God is Mercy,” when he was a parish priest in Argentina. There Pope Francis, then Father Jorge Bergoglio, met a mother with young children who had been abandoned by her husband. She had no steady income. When odd jobs were scarce, she would prostitute herself in order to feed her children and provide for her family. During that time, she would visit the local parish, which tried to help her by offering food and material goods.
One day during the Christmas season the mother visited and requested to see the parish priest, the then Father Jorge Bergoglio. He thought she was going to thank him for the package of food the parish had sent to her. "Did you receive it?" Fr. Bergoglio asked her. "Yes, yes, thank you for that, too," the mother then explained. “But Father, I came here today specially to thank you because you never stopped calling me Señora."
This experience with the young mother profoundly touched Pope Francis, who said it taught him the importance of treating every human person with dignity and mercy, no matter what situation in life they may be in. "Experiences like this teach you how important it is to welcome people delicately and not wound their dignity."
"For her, the fact that the parish priest continued to call her Señora, even though he probably knew how she led her life as a prostitute, to feed her children when odd jobs were not available, was as important – or perhaps even more important than – the concrete material help that we gave her.
A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand deeply that this mercy of God our Father is infinitely patient and compassionate. Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God's love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful. (Angelus on March 17, 2013)
Pope Francis adds, “Our era is an era of mercy, a time for the Church to show her motherly face to a humanity that is wounded . . . and is profoundly damaged, and fragile . . . “wounded by original sin,” and prone thereby to weakness, foolishness, and failure . . . “The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way . . . but to get up when we fall.
"For as long as we are alive it is always possible to start over, /all we have to do is let Jesus embrace us and forgive us.” "We only need to take a small step towards God, or at least express the desire to take it; . . . a tiny opening is enough."
In the first part of today’s Gospel that we just heard proclaimed, Jesus was heading towards Jerusalem from Galilee. The direct way was to pass through Samaria. However, the Samarians considered the Jews to be their enemies. As such, they would prevent and even injure any Jews who tried to pass through their land. However, when Jesus chose to pass through their land, He was trying to extend a hand of friendship to the enemies. And when they treated His disciples badly, the disciples James and John urged Jesus to “call down fire from heaven to burn them up.” Jesus chose the path of peace instead of revenge, /and this would also be the same Merciful response that Jesus would take, /even when He is being persecuted and eventually crucified as a criminal in Jerusalem.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe it is relevant for us to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves, “What have our responses been when people treat us unjustly and hurt us badly? Do we try to get even or worse still, do we take revenge, and harm them in return like gossiping about them, and create common enemies against them? Let us ponder on Jesus’ Merciful response to His enemies and ask ourselves, ‘How Christ-like have we been and ought to be daily?”
To this Pope Francis adds, is it not true that “we are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others and condemn them? And if this is so, then Jesus has this message for us, and I say it with humility; and this is the Lord's most powerful message for us, today: mercy. (Homily on March 17, 2013)
Jesus in today’s Gospel also reminds us that if we want to “follow Him, then we are expected to face the reality of the painful challenges that will surely come our way /with strong and single-minded commitment. Therefore, Jesus cautioned His disciples and us today that even as “foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head; and that once the hand is laid on the plough, no on who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Are we willing to take up these challenges of Jesus, and be more fully committed in our compassionate and merciful love to help build His Kingdom on earth?
If so, and in other words, we are each called to be more like Mary in our commitment. From the moment Mary said, “yes” to the angel Gabriel, up to the time she was at foot of the Cross of Her Son’s cruel Death, she committed Herself totally and unconditionally to God’s Will regardless of the threats and painful challenges she faced. Will our commitment to serve God’s Will and Mercy be as deep and as faithful?
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that while we know that it is not easy to be as merciful and as committed in our faith as Mary, we also know that it is not impossible to more faithful to God, if our hearts truly desire to seek and live God’s Will daily. God our Father will never fail to give us the strength and graces we need to be faithful to Him, as He gave Mary the fullness of graces she needed. In order to fulfil God’s desires and Will, /we also need Mary, our Mother of Mercy to pray for us. So, I would like to end with this prayer to Mary for all of us here:
“O Mary our Mother of Mercy, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanks for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent! /Receive our gratitude, and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to make our peace with God.
Holy Mary, Mother of Mercy, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you feel now your help and protection. Be ready to help us when we pray, and bring back the answers to our prayers. Make it your continual concern to pray for the people of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, the Merciful and Compassionate Lord who lives and reigns forever.” Amen.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
(ref: adapted from:firstname.lastname@example.org)(ref. www. Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.; 2016
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