“It seems that all my bridges have been burnt, but you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works. It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with every start.” Roll Away Your Stone, by Mumford and Sons.
Often when I hear those well-known bible stories like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, I am tempted to go “Yep, know that one” and switch off. Surely there is a limit to what these stories can mean in my life?! Yet, as we enter into the Jubilee of Mercy, I am challenged to look again with fresh eyes on things I thought I already knew.
This Jubilee of Mercy is the opportunity for all of us to deepen our relationship with the Father who loves us. It sounds so simple on the surface, but I am also profoundly challenged by it. For this deepening to take place, I need to allow myself to receive the love and mercy of God. “Mercy is the ultimate act by which God comes to meet us” (Pope Francis), a place of personal and intimate relationship. All relationships, to be real, require vulnerability and it is no different with God. Yet when we have the courage, like the Prodigal Son, to make the journey home, we are welcomed with a loving embrace from the Father that has been looking out for our return.
The Pope stresses how mercy is not about weakness but about learning to love better. As Christians, “to love is to will the good of the other” (CCC 1766), to look outside of ourselves and, like the Good Samaritan, to respond in mercy to the needs of those around us. This ability to act mercifully comes through practice. None of us are perfect, and many times have I chosen to ‘cross to the other side’ like the Levite and Pharisee rather than put myself out to stop and help. But as Pope Francis is always reminding us, “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” May this be a year when I accept the chance to start again.
A Jubilee is a year of great celebration. We are invited to journey, together as a Church, further into the depths of grace. To experience in very personal ways what that mercy means for us in our own lives, and, in turn, in the lives of those around us. Notice how we first must know the Father before we can be merciful like him. May we this year know how much we are loved, and may the world see the effects of that knowledge though our attitudes and actions.