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The master needs disciples as heralds of His mercy

Part 1 of 2. Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Mass of Chrism at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Two sentences frame our reflection as we take part in this year's Chrism Mass in our newly-renovated Cathedral of Saint Thomas More. The first sentence is one which we heard this past Sunday as the Gospel was being proclaimed prior to the procession entering the Church: "The Master has need of it." The second sentence we read in the opening paragraph of Pope Francis' Letter Announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy: "Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's mercy" (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, n.1). Taken together, they reveal to each one of us our mandate to be "a convincing herald of mercy" (cf. Op.Cit., n. 25).

"The Master has need of it." When Jesus instructed two of His disciples to untie a colt on which no one has ever sat, He added: "And if anyone should ask you, 'Why are you untying it?' you will answer, 'The Master has need of it.'" Is this not the best description of a disciple who is trying to be faithful? All Jesus has to say is: "I need it. … I need you" and the faithful disciple will reply: "Here it is. … Here am I! Use me for whatever purpose You have in mind. I am Yours!"

"Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's mercy" (cf. Ibid). That sentence summarizes so succinctly who Jesus Christ is: the Only-begotten Son of God the Father sent to make visible the invisible loving-kindness and mercy of Our Father, and sent to be Our Redeemer and Savior. Pope Francis adds: "Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God" (cf. Ibid). Every faithful disciple of Jesus Christ should imitate the Lord Jesus in his or her daily living. So, if Jesus Christ reveals God's mercy, then every disciple, imitating Jesus, must likewise reveal God's mercy too. Taken together, these two sentences make clear to each one of us, whatever our specific vocation is, the mandate given us to be and to act as "a convincing herald of mercy," men and women whom the Master needs in order to make present in our culture and society the mercy of God our Father as revealed by Jesus Christ.

The culture which envelops us and the society in which we live desperately needs to be aware of God's mercy and, even more, to experience such mercy. Pope Francis points to this need, "… sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use." (cf. Op.Cit., n.10). Pointing to this reality in our culture, Pope Francis then tells us why mercy is so desperately needed. "However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is a time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope" (cf. Ibid.). So, Pope Francis concludes, "The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, that, in its own way, must penetrate the heart and mind of every believer" (cf. Op.Cit., n. 12).

So then, regardless of our individual and specific vocations, we are being called by the Lord to put ourselves at His service in proclaiming and witnessing to the mercy of God. After all, we too, in imitation of the Lord Jesus, have been anointed and sent to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners." Yes, the Lord is saying to each one of us: "I need you to be a convincing herald of My mercy, a channel whereby My mercy, transforming you into a clearer image of Me, empowers you to be 'merciful like the Father' Who sent Me. Yes, make My mercy present and effective to those near you - your family, your co-workers, your classmates, your neighbors, your parishioners, and to those far away, 'to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates'" (cf. Op. Cit. n. 15). The Lord Jesus needs us to translate the corporal and spiritual works of mercy - all fourteen of them - into tangible and life-giving experiences of His loving kindness and mercy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016