Every year the Church in Canada sets aside one week as a special time for prayer and reflection on life and the family. During this year of Mercy, it is particularly appropriate that we turn our attention to the privileged role of the family as the first and most important school of mercy – the place where parents sustained by God’s grace, are meant to become icons of Divine Mercy.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to “abide in his love.” To “abide” is one of those wonderfully evocative Biblical words: it means “to remain”, “to dwell”, “to draw life”, “to be at home with.” Keeping the commandments Jesus gives us is not just observing some set of external rules, fearful that we will be punished if we disobey.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that through the efforts of Paul and Barnabas, God “opens the door of faith” to the Gentiles. In our very secular world, with so many people expressing indifference or even outright hostility to faith, how might we go about doing that?
“God’s flock is in your midst: give it a shepherd’s care.” These words of advice from St. Peter to his fellow “elders” are but the echo of the commission given to him by Christ after the Resurrection, in that wonderful conversation “by the beach” reported by John in last Sunday’s Gospel. Three times Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times, Simon Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And three times, Jesus commissions Peter to feed his lambs, to tend his flock, to give them a shepherd’s care.
St. John tells us that on the evening after Jesus rose from the dead, he came and stood among the disciples. He said to them, “Peace be with you!” Showing them his hands and his side, he also showed them his wounds. They knew it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy. Eight days later, Jesus came once again into the Upper Room and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them also, and so believe and become himself a witness to the Resurrection.
I was deeply inspired by this Easter message written by one of my closest friends, Donald Bolen, who is now Bishop of Saskatoon. May his words inspire us to appreciate more deeply the new life offered to us in our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Happy Easter!
The Easter Triduum: Jesus, the Face of the Father’s Mercy
March 18, 2016
As we have journeyed as a parish through Lent, we have heard and responded to Jesus’ message of mercy. On Ash Wednesday, we embraced the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. At our sessions on Living with Limits, Living Well and Social Justice & Works of Charity: The Two Feet of Love in Action, we explored the implications of Christ’s message of mercy, his desire to heal our broken relationships with one another and with the earth, our common home.
Pope Francis gave his very first Angelus address three years ago this week, from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. His comments on the Gospel proposed for our reflection this Sunday – the merciful encounter between Jesus and a woman accused of adultery – are especially appropriate for this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
This coming week, from Monday through Wednesday evening, Fr. Mike Shaw will be leading our parish mission, dedicated to the theme: Rich in Mercy: The Gift of Forgiveness. Fr. Mike is also preaching at all the Masses this weekend, to introduce the major themes of the retreat and to inspire our desire to participate in it as fully as we can. He will lead us on a journey to deeper understanding of these beautiful and complex realities: grace, mercy, repentance, forgiveness, salvation, and redemption.
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy – and in a special way, during this season of Lent – we are invited to ponder the deeper meaning of such words as “mercy”, “forgiveness”, “repentance” and “reconciliation”. For example, Pope Francis and Donald Trump have at least one thing in common: they are both sinners. But the similarities end there. Pope Francis knows that he is a sinner, one whom God has looked on with mercy: he asks for our prayers. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, tells us that he is not a bad person, and therefore “doesn’t have to ask for forgiveness.” As Pope Francis rightly pointed out, he seems much more intent on building walls of division than bridges to understanding. Who do you think is a more credible embodiment of Christian faith and mercy?