"A lay Catholic perspective"

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A Life of Mercy

by Christine Kaskiw


ONE OF MY FAVOURITE scripture passages is John 3:16, Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes him may not be lost but may have eternal life. God's mercy is powerful! Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter entitled On the Mercy of God expresses beautifully the tender love which God has for his people. I was particularly touched by the chapter entitled The Mercy of God in the Mission of the Church.

The heart of conversion is accepting our Father's mercy in our weaknesses and allowing God to transform our lives. Pope John Paul tells us "conversion to God always consists in . . . discovering that love which is patient and kind" (On the Mercy of God, p.66). Scripture passages such as the story of the prodigal son or the shepherd leaving his flock in search of the one lost sheep demonstrate God's untiring love. Through Jesus, sin is defeated for all mankind. Frequent "participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Reconciliation" gives us the opportunity to experience God's love and through our conversion reflect his mercy to those we meet.

Our Christian vocation is a continual process of conversion. Conversion renews the life of the church reuniting people to God. Jesus challenges us to practice mercy towards others when he says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:6). Mercy cannot be detached from a situation or another person. True mercy draws together the hearts of those involved in an encounter with God's transforming love. Mercy heals division and is crucial in shaping relationships between married couples, between parents and children and among friends. By embracing Jesus' cross "we are able with all humility to show mercy to others, knowing that Christ accepts it as if it were shown to himself" (On the Mercy of God, p.69).

As Christians we witness Christ's mercy to the world. Forgiving one another establishes a foundation of reconciliation that acknowledges the triumph of God's love over sin. Jesus tells us how to forgive when he says "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." This generous call to forgive does not ignore the need for restitution when injury or insult has been incurred. Forgiveness provides the basis for restitution between individuals.

A few years ago, members of our community initiated an outreach program in the North End of Winnipeg. Outreach teams went door to door asking people if they would like a home-visit from our parish. The response was overwhelming. Often during the visit, team members would find themselves asking the person forgiveness for a past hurt the Church had caused them. Simple acts of tender mercy like these resulted in the people experiencing God's compassion. Team members also had opportunities to hear how God had touched the lives of the people they were visiting. Every person visited had already experienced beautiful encounters with God's love. The home-visits were uplifting experiences and a wonderful witness to God's mercy transforming lives.

Our acts of mercy transform the world. The year 2000 is a special time of grace in the Catholic Church. During this Jubilee Year, pray that Jesus will pour out his mercy on his Church and that he will give us zeal in being his instruments of compassion to everyone we meet.