Holy Year a time to recommit to Christ’s mission of mercy

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | December 17, 2015
Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I wasn’t very excited by the prospect of spending St. Patrick’s Day 2013 in Rome. But the executive board of Caritas Internationalis was meeting at that time and I was obligated to be there. My Irish mother had always made sure that we celebrated the patron of Ireland appropriately, and she surely would not have approved of corned beef and rigatoni.

As Providence would have it, however, Pope Francis was elected that same week and his first public appearance fell — you guessed it — on St. Patrick’s Day. I felt so blessed to be in Rome and squeezed into St. Peter’s Square with 100,000 of my closest friends to hear the message the new Holy Father would have for the Church and the world. He spoke colloquially that day about a book he’d been reading in the days before the conclave and indicated it was about mercy. He also shared a message about God’s mercy that he had once received from a wise grandmother in Buenos Aires. And he uttered a truism that I will never forget: “We have a God who never tires of offering mercy — we tire of asking for it, but our God never tires of offering mercy.” You didn’t have to be Sigmund Freud to know that God’s tender mercy was very much on the mind of this shepherd who had come to Rome already dreaming about retirement but found himself elected to be the successor of St. Peter.

We’ve heard that theme from him repeatedly over the last 1,000 days and have seen it lived out in the countless photos documenting his pontificate. Who will ever forget the photo of Pope Francis confessing his sins at the Vatican penance service? Or the repeated images of him reaching out with God’s mercy to the sick, the marginalized, the refugees and the homeless?

While everyone was caught off guard last March when the Holy Father called for an extraordinary holy year, the Year of Mercy, in hindsight, none of us should have been even the least bit surprised. Mercy has been at the core of his message since the very first days of his pontificate.

Just as I felt blessed to be in St. Peter’s Square on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013, I feel blessed to be walking with the faithful in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the beginning of this Year of Mercy. It was a great honor to be able to open the Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. Paul and to impart Pope Francis’ apostolic blessing to the faithful of this archdiocese who had gathered for the celebration. I’m anxious to see how this extraordinary moment of grace will be lived out in this local Church in the days and months ahead, knowing that the Lord is calling us to both know God’s mercy and be instruments of God’s mercy in the concrete context of the rather unique challenges and opportunities that are facing this local Church.

In many ways, the passage through the Holy Doors symbolizes our desire to pass from the life of sin to the new life of grace. It manifests our willingness to take those necessary steps to both know God’s mercy and to radiate it in our encounters with others. While we are surely called to do that as individuals, it seems to me that it’s going to be important for this local Church to make that journey as well.

As we pass through the Holy Doors (and I hope you will make the pilgrimage to the Basilica and Cathedral to do just that as often as possible!), let’s pray that this year of grace might be a time when we collectively come to recognize the possibilities that will be set before us in the months ahead as we intentionally re-center our lives on Christ — mercy incarnate — and joyfully recommit ourselves to his mission of mercy.

I take great comfort from Pope Francis’ prayer that we “might feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness” and pray that you will as well.

El Año Santo, un tiempo para volver a comprometerse con la misión de misericordia de Cristo

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Category: Only Jesus

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