The apostles faced some probing questions, just like we all do. Peter and Paul grapple with the question: what must we believe? The apostles grapple with how they were to pray. We know that God loved the world enough to sacrifice His beloved Son. We also know that in the Son, we have been made sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. There seems to be an on-going tension between faith content and devotional expression. I am reminded of a statement attributed to Saint Augustine: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The immediacy of these words were underscored by Pope Francis during his meeting with Patriarch Ilia II in Georgia: “Notwithstanding our limitations, we are called to be “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28) and to avoid putting first disharmony and divisions between the baptized”. It is impossible to proclaim the mercy of God if we cannot show mercy to one another.
We need to stop justifying the great divide keeping
the members of the Body of Christ separated one from another. God is
not glorified by our rejection of one another. It is sad to say, but
true, that we give lip service to the Lord of Mercy and the Mercy of the
Lord, but we keep beating-up and condemning others. I was brought to
tears as I read a comment made by Pope Francis: “Ah! Brothers and
Sisters, God's face is the face of a merciful father who is always
patient. Have you thought about God's patience, the patience He has with
each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience
with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of
forgiving us if we are willing to return to Him with a contrite heart"
(Angelus on March 17, 2013).
The challenge of Christianity is to
present and defend the Truth in love, or perhaps mercy is a better
word, for our purposes. It is mercy that allows us to look beyond
division and disharmony. It is mercy that can change the world. Cardinal
Kasper, in his book of mercy wrote: “[Mercy] is the best thing we can
feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and
more just” (The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life).
Mercy means that we do not have to remain in exile. We can come home
again and share the banquet of life. Mercy is the infinite love of God
revealed to us in concrete deeds – the death and resurrection of the
Son. So mercy becomes not only the central attribute of God, but also
the central attribute of Christian life. We are called to imitate God’s
mercy towards us.
I will close with a few words from Pope
Francis: “Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus,
let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let
us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the
earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish”
(Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013).
--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO