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This weekend, Christian believers continue their celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the Octave concludes and we enter into the regular portion of the Easter Season, the Church draws our attention to the mercy of God.
The Gospel message of forgiveness, tenderness, and compassion offers a liberating worldview. It is one born from the heart of the Risen Christ and entrusted to each of his followers. In contrast to suspicion, anger, and bitterness, the Christian message of mercy proposes a life of trust, gentleness, and kindness. It is a countercultural way of life, but it is one that is much needed today.
In imitation of the Lord Jesus, the message of mercy is one that is very dear to the heart of Pope Francis. It is his constant message, with “tenderness” being his word above all others. The Holy Father explains: “And how does the Lord give comfort? With tenderness. It is a language that the prophets of doom do not recognize: tenderness. It is a word that is canceled by all the vices that drive us away from the Lord: clerical vices, the vices of some Christians who don’t want to move, of the lukewarm… Tenderness scares them… This is the way the Lord comforts: with tenderness. Tenderness consoles. When a child cries, a mom will caress them and calm them with tenderness: a word that the world today has practically removed from the dictionary.”
Our fallen world can dish out an array of hurts and disappointments. People are fallen and things don’t always go our way. Sinful things happen. People don’t always follow the path of love and goodness. We can be shocked by the decisions of people (and ourselves) that nurture pride and selfishness and that allow darkness to have the rule of the day.
And so, in a world that at times encourages us to create masks and facades and to die behind them, the message of mercy summons us to remove such shackles. It invites us to accept our faults, and those of our neighbor, and to choose freedom, tenderness, and reconciliation.
When failure and distress come, the message of mercy reminds us of God’s providence and the virtue of others. It points us beyond hurt. It teaches us that life isn’t all darkness. Mercy allows us to hope beyond the offenses of ourselves and others. It points us to a broader perspective and a renewed confidence in our own goodness and that of humanity.
As Pope Francis teaches us: “Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier, and leads you to always seek the face of the man, of the person. And it is mercy which changes the heart and the life, which can regenerate a person and allow him or her to integrate into society in a new way.”
As taught by the Lord Jesus throughout his public mercy, and especially in his passion, death, and Resurrection, mercy is the choice made by God. It is a choice that the disciples of the Lord Jesus are called to make. As Christians, we are to be a people of mercy.
In a world that sometimes seems paralyzed with uncertainty and fear, mercy breaks out of such confines and summons us to follow: to love ourselves and others, to work selflessly for a civilization of love and goodness, and to seek peace with God, ourselves, and others.
As Pope Francis reminds us: “God is always waiting for us. He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always!”
The message of mercy is a daily message. On this eighth day of Easter, however, the message is accentuated. It is placed before us in full view of the Risen Christ. We are invited to take up the mantle of mercy. We are called out of darkness and into God’s own wonderful light, and the path to get there is through mercy.
Mercy is allowing ourselves the power to change and giving to others the same freedom to change their own lives. Mercy is a decision for freedom. It is a decision for love. Mercy is a decision to imitate the tenderness of God and live that tenderness in our own lives.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby