In this season of the Resurrection, Pope Francis has given us a great gift.
He has announced a Holy Year, an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. It will start during Advent, on Dec. 8, the Immaculate Conception, and it will continue until Christ the King Sunday, November 20, 2016.
This Jubilee of Mercy is a beautiful gesture by our Holy Father — and one that is close to my heart.
When I was first appointed a bishop, I was asked, as all new bishops are, to select an “episcopal motto” that would express my vision for my pastoral ministry.
I chose a passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us go forth with confidence to the throne of grace.”
I chose those words because God’s throne is the mercy seat and, as this passage from Hebrews says, we go to God’s throne to receive his mercy and to find his grace in our time of need.
Later, I wrote a pastoral letter on “The Tender Mercy of Our God.”
For me, mercy is the mission of every Christian and the mission of the Church.
The Church exists to evangelize — and the mercy of God is always the “content” of evangelization. Mercy is God’s revelation to us, it’s the good news the Church proclaims.
That has been my vision for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for these past four years.
I want us to be a Church that evangelizes — a Church that bears witness to God’s mercy in everything we do. A Church that shares God’s love and makes it real for every person in our society.
The five pastoral priorities I have set out are all aspects of this one mission of mercy — teaching about God, inspiring vocations, serving families, building the identity of the family of God, defending the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.
All of these priorities help us to become a people of mercy and a Church of mercy.
Mercy is the heart of the Gospel and we must make it the heart of our identity as Christians.
This is what Easter is all about. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus shows us the face of God — and his face is the face of mercy, forgiveness and love.
And in this Easter season, Jesus once more is calling all of us to rise to a new life — a life that bears witness to his Resurrection. A life that bears witness to God’s mercy alive and at work in our lives.
As God has been merciful to us, he calls us to be merciful to others.
Jesus promised us that the merciful will be blessed with mercy. So mercy is the blessing that we should seek to share in our daily lives, in our attitudes, in our actions.
We all know that mercy is more than a feeling. Mercy means action. Mercy means feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.
The works of mercy are the works of peace and the works of justice — for the poor, the sick, the suffering and the vulnerable, and for all those driven to the margins of society.
In our personal relationships, mercy means having more patience and tenderness with those who are close to us. Mercy means giving people the benefit of the doubt, giving them a second chance.
Mercy means forgiving others as we have been forgiven.
Pope Francis says it nicely: “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”
So let’s keep praying for each other this week, as we continue in this joyful season of Easter.
Let’s pray that we may all be renewed by God’s mercy, and that mercy may become for all of us a way of living, the work of our lives.
We need to proclaim the beautiful reality of God’s compassion and tenderness. We are called to be missionaries of the love and mercy of God. It’s a beautiful adventure to go out and bring the beauty of God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters.
So let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Mercy, to help us to go out with Easter joy to proclaim the tender mercy of God and lead others to the throne of grace.