Don’t you just love it when God keeps reminding us of something everywhere we turn. Yesterday the Holy Father announced an extraordinary holy year, a Jubilee Year of Mercy. This morning during the Office of Readings we couldn’t help but smile at the second reading from St. Gregory of Nazianzen, which was all about mercy:
The Lord of all asks for mercy, not sacrifice, and mercy is greater than myriads of fattened lambs. Let us then show him mercy in the persons of the poor and those who today are lying on the ground, so that when we come to leave this world they may receive us into everlasting dwelling places, in Christ our Lord himself, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
And then the Gospel at Mass confirmed it again as we heard the publican’s humble prayer “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The holy year will be organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization because, the Holy Father says, it is the mission of the Church to bring everyone to the Gospel of Mercy. Truly, to encounter Mercy is to encounter Christ, Who is Mercy itself. The devil lies to us, telling us that our mistakes and the sins we have committed throughout our lives have the final word. The truth is Christ has the final word, and it is a word of mercy – if we are willing to accept it and turn from sin.
But how can we tell others of the renewing power of God’s mercy if we ourselves haven’t experienced it? We can’t. Everyone’s life has been touched by the merciful love of God, but sometimes we don’t have the eyes to see it, we need to take a look at our lives from another perspective. We have to do some “spiritual archaeology”, as Fr. William Watson calls it.
In his homily yesterday at the penitential service Pope Francis said, “The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable.” He speaks of the penetrating gaze into the heart we must have in dealing with others, but we must also treat our own hearts the same way so that we can truly bring the good news of the Gospel of Mercy to the world. How can this be done? For our community, we have found the Ignatian method to be the greatest tool for discovering God’s presence and providential care in each of our lives. As we have mentioned many times before, the two books by Fr. William Watson, Sacred Story and Forty Weeks, are invaluable for those who want to commit to a simple but profound program of encountering God and His healing love. As a community we are undertaking the Forty Weeks journey together this year, and it is amazing. As Father says in the book, which is designed for everyone in every state of life, “all you need to engage this spiritual journey is a generous heart and a willingness to be transformed by Christ’s purifying forgiveness and mercy.”
If this whets your appetite to learn more you can watch Fr. Watson’s appearance on EWTN Live last year, talking about this life changing program and the work of his Sacred Story Institute.
We can’t say enough about how much we love the books! Forty Weeks is what we are undertaking now, and you can begin with that. We also read Sacred Story first, which really helped us to have more knowledge about Ignatius and the way his method works, and the way this program works. It also contains a more condensed “retreat” of 9 weeks, which we didn’t do, but the other info in the book was extremely helpful. It’s packed full of insights, so it isn’t a fast read by any means, but it’s well worth it if you have the time.