Show Know Mercy: Its meaning?

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the annual Youth Rally at Marymount University in Arlington.

Do you want to be successful? To be looked up to? To be great? To be happy? Of course, you do! So do most people! So did two of Jesus' closest friends and disciples, James and John. Is not that what we just heard in today's Gospel account? Close your eyes and imagine the scene once again. James and John go to Jesus and ask Him: "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." They were certainly daring and blunt: "whatever we ask of you." When Jesus replies, "What do you wish me to do for you?" they respond: "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." James and John were asking that they have the two top positions in Jesus' Kingdom. They want to be successful, to be looked up to, to be great, to be happy! They want to have positions of honor, prestige and recognition.

Notice what Jesus tells them: "Do you understand what you are asking?" And when they say quickly - almost too quickly - "we do," Jesus explains that what they want comes at a great cost: lots of sacrifice and self-giving to others. The bottom line, Jesus tells them, and He is telling us right now, the bottom line for becoming successful, being looked up to and being at the top is living life by serving others. Jesus points out to all the apostles, including James and John, and now to us: Real success, true recognition and authentic greatness is living life as I did: "For the Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

What Jesus Christ is doing is turning false values and goals upside down and pointing out the real way - the only way - to genuine and enduring success here and hereafter: "Serve and give your life to others as a ransom."

Is there some other way to say this? Yes, "Show Know Mercy." You are aware by now that "Show Know Mercy" is this year's theme for our diocesan Office of Youth Ministry, a theme you are being asked to reflect on and to live all year long. "Show Know Mercy." If we say this theme out loud and quickly, it can sound like the opposite of what we mean, namely, "Don't show mercy," But, when we see the spelling of "Know" - K-N-O-W - and unpack the meaning of "show" and "know," then we clearly understand the real meaning. "Know" means "experience" and "show" means "extend or do." Moreover, you and I must know or experience mercy before we can show or extend it.

What kind of mercy are we talking about? Whose mercy are we to know and to show? The mercy of God Our Father made visible in Jesus Christ, His Only-begotten Son and Our Lord and Savior. When we show or extend God's mercy to another person or persons, we are, in fact, doing what Jesus tells us is real success and true greatness: serving and giving our self - our very life - to others.

But why all this emphasis on mercy? We do not hear much about mercy in our everyday experience, do we? So why? Pope Francis has announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy, from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, a time when we Catholics are called to reflect on mercy, to experience mercy and to extend mercy - a time to: "Show Know Mercy."

Do we want to know what mercy looks like? Look at Jesus, Pope Francis reminds us: "Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's Mercy. … Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God, (cf. "Misericordiae Vultus," n.1).

Do you want to know what mercy does? Look at Jesus. Today's sacred Scripture readings put before us examples of what He did - out of mercy and love for us. Jesus is the Suffering Son of God, who gives his life as an offering for sin, and who through his suffering on the Cross justifies many, and bears their guilt. The Suffering and Redeeming Jesus was prefigured by the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, described in today's first reading. In today's second reading, Saint Paul points to Jesus as a merciful High priest and intercessor for us, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been similarly tested in every way, yet without sin. "So," Saint Paul concludes, "let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." In today's Gospel account, Jesus Himself becomes a living model of mercy: coming among us to serve and to give his life as a ransom.

"Show Know Mercy." We cannot show what we do not yet know. So, how do we know or experience God's Mercy made visible in Jesus Christ? By being with Jesus, dialoging with Him in what we call prayer. Make time for Jesus every day! I promise you: spending time with Jesus really pays off, big time! Let Jesus touch you with His divine mercy in the Sacrament of Penance. Let Jesus strengthen you as He comes to live within you during each celebration of the Mass in Holy Communion. Listen to the beatings of Jesus' Heart - that's how Saint John Paul II put it - as you spend time before Him truly and really present in the Tabernacle.

Once we know mercy, then we must show mercy. Pope Francis challenges us - everyone in the Church - to become a "convincing herald of mercy" (cf. Op. Cit. n. 25). How do we show mercy? In countless ways: like doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. There are seven in each category. Your homework: discover what they are and actually do one or other of them each week. Another way is to overcome the envy and jealousy we so often face with those around us. Yet another way is to forgive someone who has hurt or offended us, and, when we hurt others by what we say or do, to ask forgiveness. In these and in many other ways, we are basically serving and giving our life as a ransom for many, like Jesus Christ Himself.

What a world of difference it makes when we "Show Know Mercy": a world of difference - in your world, my world, the world of your family, of your neighborhood, of your parish, of this diocese, of this country, and beyond! Yes, "Live Jesus" and "Show Know Mercy!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015