Editorial | It’s our job to extend God’s mercy

L’Osservatore Romano/Catholic News Service
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The U.S. bishops' website doesn't hold back when addressing the topic of mercy.

"We say that God is compassionate, but we ignore the poor. We say that God loves us and has mercy on us, but we hold grudges against our friends. Our actions need to authentically reflect God's mercy."

Now that's a challenge, highlighted during the extraordinary jubilee celebration of the Year of Mercy, which closed Nov. 20.

The Catholic Church's focus on God's mercy must continue with individual acts of kindness, assistance to the poor and, particularly, encouraging Catholics to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and making it easier for them to do so, Pope Francis wrote in a document released Nov. 21.

Earlier, Pope Francis described why a time of mercy is needed: "It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ."

Advent, which begins Nov. 27, is a great time to renew our commitment to mercy as we prepare ourselves for Christ. It's a time to initiate kindness, extend mercy to the poor and reconcile with family and friends we may have failed to forgive for a transgression, or for intense disagreement through a hard election.

According to the U.S. bishops' conference, even though we're called to be like God in his merciful compassion, we're limited in our human capacity to forgive. Pope Francis acknowledged this, writing: "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."

Even though it's challenging to let go, we're given the tools in our formation as baptized Christians to pardon people who offend us, including the sacraments, daily prayer, the Word of God, and support from our parish and home communities. "Only in letting go and forgiving others are we able to experience more fully the joy of the merciful love of God acting in our own lives," the bishops' conference stated in a reflection on mercy. "Sometimes this letting go involves giving up our problems to God and fully resting in his love. When we do this, we place our trust in God's compassion and strive to live out that compassion as we are able to in our own way."

God's mercy endures forever. So should ours.

>> Mercy: The loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

>> Corporal works of mercy:

• Feed the hungry

• Give drink to the thirsty

• Shelter the homeless

• Visit the sick

• Visit the imprisoned

• Bury the dead

• Give alms to the poor

>> Spiritual works of mercy:

• Counsel the doubtful

• Instruct the ignorant

• Admonish the sinner

• Comfort the sorrowful

• Forgive injuries

• Pray for the living and the dead

Learn more about Mercy at www.stlouisreview.com/brW 

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