Pope Francis’s document which announced the current Holy Year, is a fascinating read. Particularly striking for me are the phrases in paragraph 10:
“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
The Pope’s words highlight how important for the success of evangelisation, and a prerequisite to bring people closer to the Lord, is that the Church/People of God can demonstrate their credibility by loving words and actions.
Later in the document Pope Francis examines the relationship between justice and mercy, understanding them as, “two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.”
He returned to this theme of mercy/love and credibility at the close of the recent Synod when in his homily on the gospel story of the meeting of Jesus with Bartimaeus, he said: "Even though he has only begun his most important journey … he still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’ cry..Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him. Jesus shows that he wants to hear our need”, said the Pope “He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from him."
He then outlined two temptations that face all of us within the Church, "None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: his problem was not their problem," said Francis. "This can be a danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open," said the Pope. "We lose wonder, gratitude and enthusiasm, and risk becoming habitually unmoved by grace. We are able to speak about him and work for him, but we live far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. This is the temptation: a 'spirituality of illusion:' we can walk through the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead, we see what we want to see."
The second temptation occurs when, "we are able to walk with the People of God, but we already have our schedule for the journey, where everything is listed. We know where to go and how long it will take; everyone must respect our rhythm and every problem is a bother, We run the risk of becoming the 'many' of the Gospel who lose patience and rebuke Bartimaeus. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to include, above all, those kept on the fringes who are crying out to him," said the Pope. "They, like Bartimaeus, have faith, because awareness of the need for salvation is the best way of encountering Jesus”.
ACTA exists to help develop an atmosphere of openness and dialogue within the Church and in so doing can contribute greatly to the development of mercy and justice, and demonstrate the church’s credibility to those it seeks to reach through this Jubilee Year.
Peter Farrell ( ACTA Co-ordinator for the Plymouth Diocesan Area)
email [email protected] or tel 01626 369478