I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas with your family and loved ones. I am writing you from the Cardinal Manning House of Prayer, where I am on a retreat this week with all my brother bishops here in Los Angeles and from the dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Praying and celebrating the liturgies of Christmas, I came to a powerful sense that in this new year, in this special Jubilee of Mercy, we need to rediscover God’s personal love for us — his love as “our Father.”
Every year during this season, we hear those striking words of St. John: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be calledthe children of God. Yet so we are!”
God is our Father and we are his sons and daughters. This is who God is and this is who we are. This relationship is the foundation for everything in our lives.
Jesus came into the world to reveal this relationship to us. It’s the key to understanding his Gospel — this good news of God’s fatherhood and our divine filiation.
“His teaching, his ministry, his very style of life— everything in him refers to the Father,” St. John Paul II once said. “The Father is the center of Jesus’ life, and Jesus in turn is the only way which gives us access to him. … Jesus is the meeting-point of human beings with the Father, who is made visible in him.”
In this Year of Mercy, we need to open the Gospels again and reread them in this light. We need to notice how everything that Jesus says and does is intended to reveal the face of God, who is the Father of mercies.
To know that God is our Father should fill us with joy and confidence and feelings of deep filial love. We should love God with the kind of love that little children have for their parents, trusting that our Father wants only our happiness and what is best for us.
We all need to be renewed in this sense of God’s love and care for us. We can ask God — even for little things, for the smallest favors. Our Father knows what we need even before we ask, so we should never be anxious about our lives, Jesus said. “Ask and it will be given to you. … Knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Knowing that God is our Father should also give us a sense of responsibility for our family, the Church. Jesus told Mary and St. Joseph: “I must be in my Father’s house.”
We should have this same deep desire to please our Father and to know our Father’s heart — all his desires and intentions for our lives and for the world.
As sons and daughters of God we should be doing our Father’s will, building his family, his kingdom on earth.
It’s all there in the prayer that Jesus taught us — “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God is calling all his children to do our part, day by day and little by little, so that his kingdom becomes a reality — first in our hearts and then in the world.
This is how Jesus lived and this is how we should live. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother,” he said.
And as we know, God’s will — his heart — is mercy. Jesus told us: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” So let us try in this New Year to live with his mercy in our lives. To be merciful and forgiving with others as he is forgiving and merciful with us.
Let us try to bring our Father’s light, and his compassion, and his peace to our world — to our brothers and sisters, to our families, to our society.
To know God as our Father, we have to see him through the eyes of his son.
So in the Year of Mercy, let’s stay close to Jesus and let’s keep our gaze on him. This year, let’s try to be more diligent about reading a little each day from the Gospel, about praying more intently during the Mass, and about spending more time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
These are all means for growing closer to Jesus — and through him we come closer to God.
As we begin this New Year, this Year of Mercy, let us pray for one another. Let us ask Jesus, as his disciples always have, “Show us the Father.”
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us all to grow in our knowledge of our Father’s love and to know his tender mercies in our lives.