Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.
God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbour’s in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged.
For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.
For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them.
(from the Holy Father’s Message for Lent 2016)
Trocaire reflection for the First Sunday of Lent
14 February 2016
As we enter the season of Lent we are being called once again into the ‘wilderness’. The temptations are not just a testing episode in the life and ministry of Jesus, but are an integral part of his mission. Jesus is being tempted to eat when he is not supposed to eat, to take the easy route of power over the world through exploitation, when that is not his way. Ultimately, God is in control here; this wilderness is Spirit-led. And so it is for us.
When it comes down to it, each of the temptations is about the same thing – our ability to trust in God. This should not direct us towards complacency or apathy but to listen. We listen to his Word; we now must listen to what he is saying to us through the Book of Creation. We must trust in those signals and signs.
We hear Teresina’s story today, on Valentine’s Day. We hear of an effect of climate change that is often overlooked – a family forced apart because of dry land. This past year we have seen large movements of refugees around the world, and we know that the next generation of refugees will be climate refugees, forced from their homes and their land because of the effects of climate injustice. It does not have to be this way. Our temptations are many: to have more, to use more, to take more. We can also be tempted to say that it is up to large corporations and governments to make the necessary changes for climate justice, but we all play a part. As we enter the ‘wilderness’ of Lent, let us spend time with the temptations in the Gospel today and hear the call to ‘trust’. Trust what the Lord is trying to tell us through the Book of Creation. It is in the wasteland that we find the signs of God’s renewal. How will you commit to climate justice this Lent? #uptous
Click here for further Scripture resources prepared for the First Sunday of Lent by the Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development of the Irish Episcopal Conference.