An Apostolic Letter released by Pope Francis at the conclusion of last year’s Jubilee Year focussed on how mercy is at the very centre of the existence of the Catholic Church
The letter, entitled in Latin, Misericordiae et Misera (Mercy with Misery) aims to encourage the lay faithful to look for ways of being witnesses of God’s love and mercy.
Referencing Jesus’ meeting with the adulteress in the Gospel of John (8:1-11), Pope Francis spoke of forgiveness being the “most visible sign of the Father’s love”.
“Mercy is this concrete action of love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives. In this way, the divine mystery of mercy is made manifest,” the Holy Father said.
“From generation to generation, it embraces all those who trust in Him and it changes them, by bestowing a share in His very life,” he said.
Pope Francis also called out for people to become “vessels of mercy” and witnesses of the Gospel.
“In a culture often dominated by technology, sadness and loneliness appear to be on the rise, not least among young people. The future seems prey to an uncertainty that does not make for stability.
“We need witnesses to hope and true joy if we are to dispel the illusions that promise quick and easy happiness through artificial paradises.
“The corporal and spiritual works of mercy continue in our own day to be proof of mercy’s immense positive influence as a social value. Mercy impels us to roll up our sleeves and set about restoring dignity to millions of people; they are our brothers and sisters who, with us, are called to build a ‘city which is reliable’,” he said.
Theological observer Kathleen Wood OAM spoke to The Record Magazine, reflecting on Misericordiae et Misera and the words of the Holy Father.
“Pope Francis speaks of consolation at a deeply personal level, which every committed person must bear in mind when seeking to extend the love of God to those in need of support for whatever reason,” Ms Wood said.
“To offer consolation to others effectively means going beyond our circle of friends and extending comfort to others we may not personally know,” she said.
Ms Wood also provided some insight as to the steps that we, the lay faithful, can take within the Archdiocese, to promote a “culture of mercy”, as Pope Francis asked.
She also discussed that Australia, being a Western nation that supports materialism and consumerism, does not pay much attention to the energy and drive envisioned by the Church in putting mercy into action with the Pope, bishops and clergy leading the way.
“Congregations require appropriate homilies explaining the teaching of the Church on the controversial issues of the day, such as abortion, euthanasia, and same sex marriage for example.
“Significant emphasis is placed (in Australia) on these topics by means of current Government discussion, decision and potential action, while irresponsible reporting and ongoing criticism of the Church by the media remains negative and damaging,” she said.
Mrs Wood echoed the call of Pope Francis in being witnesses of God’s love and mercy, walking in the footsteps of Christ in all aspects of everyday life.
“To walk in the steps of the Good Shepherd takes courage, born out of commitment to our Lord’s call to ‘feed His sheep’, and then by action in following His own teaching where the one who was lost is found and brought home to the fold.
“The great Catholic G K Chesterton was correct when he said, ‘We do not need a Church that will move with the world, but a Church that will MOVE the world’,” she concluded.