Life is very good when there is mercy

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Mass for the Life is Very Good Rally at Eagle Bank Arena, George Mason University in Fairfax.

My dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus, Life is VERY Good! Can you repeat that with me? Life is VERY GOOD! This is something we say when things are going great, such as when we're sharing time with our family and friends … or when we're on vacation … or when our team wins the big game … or when we receive an A+ on a school project. Yes, there are many things in our lives that make us respond, "Life is very good!"

We live in a culture that also values the "good life," so to speak, but our culture tries to convince us life is good when we have lots of possessions and money, when we have the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want, regardless of whether it's right or wrong. Many people share this idea of the good life, even people we may know. In fact, we ourselves may sometimes think this way.

Well, let me speak to you from my heart. After 75 years on this earth - 50 of those years as a priest and almost 28 as a Bishop - after all of that, prayer and experience have showed me over and over again that what makes life very good is not things; it's not money; it's not power; it's not subjectively defining what is right and wrong, that is, according to what I think. No, what makes life very good is mercy! Yes, you heard right: Mercy! Life is very good when there is mercy! Life is very good when we experience God's mercy! Life is very good when we share God's mercy with others ! I say it again: Life is very good when there is mercy!

As you know, we are observing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year to remember that we are beloved sons and daughters of a merciful Father. In today's first reading, we heard that after God created man and woman in His own image, "God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good" (cf. Gn 1:31a). Our Creator calls us "very good!" He loves us and is happy that we are alive, that we exist! And after the first humans, Adam and Eve, were deceived by the serpent into turning their backs on God and committing the original sin, did God stop loving them? No! Does He stop loving us when we sin? No! In fact, He loves us so much that He sent His Own Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and free us from the effects of sin, including the permanence of death! Yes, Jesus came to show us the mercy of God, because life is very good when there is mercy!

Pope Francis calls Jesus "the face of the Father's mercy," and urges us to constantly contemplate the mystery of mercy because it is a "wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace." Pope Francis calls mercy "the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us" and "the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness" (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, No. 2).

Yes, life is very good when there is mercy! As Christians, we know what mercy looks like because we have received mercy from God. And God wants us to pass on His mercy. There are countless ways to be heralds of God's mercy, such as forgiving someone who has hurt you, or reaching out to a classmate who is having a hard time fitting in, or praying for a person who is in need, or giving a voice to those who are treated unjustly. However, sadly, not everyone understands what mercy really is. Many are confused, because they think that to be merciful means to take away all suffering and difficulty. Therefore, some people think that mercy means ending the life of a baby in the womb because it might be handicapped or have a disease. They think mercy means killing children in the womb because they might be burdens to their parents. Yes, that serpent, the Father of Lies, tricks many people into believing that mercy means ending the life of children in the womb because those children or their parents may suffer. But this is not mercy … not even close. This is a lie, and I beg you, my sisters and brothers in Christ, do not ever believe this lie!

No, ending a human life is not mercy. Instead, mercy is defending life, especially the lives of those who cannot defend themselves! Recently, I was touched by a story I read about Monica Canetta, who wrote that when she was 20 weeks pregnant, she and her husband learned that their son had severe malformations and would not live long after birth. So they named him Matteo, which means "gift of God." Monica wrote, "With every day that Matteo grew in my womb, so grew my desire to meet him alive and to baptize him. Matteo was born on a spring day, weighing just under three pounds and crying faintly. With the priest still on his way to the hospital, my husband baptized Matteo with holy water from Lourdes. … We held Matteo in our arms as he went peacefully to heaven, having lived less than two hours. We are certain that Matteo is in heaven, and to know this is the greatest gift for a parent. Matteo taught us that what matters in life is not 'doing something' but allowing oneself to be loved." What a beautiful example of mercy! Of true love! There are countless stories just like this. Millions of parents echo God in saying, "'It is very good' that you are alive!" Millions of children are allowed to live despite difficult situations, disease and handicaps. There are countless opportunities to recognize that each child, each soul, is a gift from God, and is worthy of the mercy that comes from being a child of a merciful God. Yes, life is very good when there is mercy!

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis tells us to "open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help!" (cf. op. cit., 15).

This is why we march! Our eyes are open to the misery of the world, and we come to our nation's capital to answer the cries of those who seek our help! The cries of those that our culture deems unworthy of living! The cries of those who now deeply regret falling for the lie that it was merciful to take the life of their unborn child! We are here to show them true mercy! Strengthened by Our Lord in the Eucharist, let us be convincing heralds of God's mercy through our joyful witness today, as we leave this Mass and enter the streets of D.C., and every day as we return to our homes, families, churches and schools. Let us know God's mercy, show His mercy, and bring that mercy to all, especially those most in need of it.

Yes, life is very good when there is mercy!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016