Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy, beginning Tuesday, December 8, and running through Sunday, November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. American Martyrs has been designated by Archbishop José H. Gomez as one of the Pilgrimage Churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as it represents the journey each of us makes travelling along the road of life, making our way to the desired destination in the arms of our loving and compassionate God. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.
Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him. What a beautiful thing that the Church begins her daily prayer with the words, “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me!” (Ps 70:2) The assistance we ask for is already the first step of God’s mercy toward us. God comes to assist us in our weakness. Day after day, touched by God’s compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.
The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting (cf. Rev 7:4). Their holiness comes to the aid of our weakness in a way that enables the Church, with her maternal prayers and her way of life, to fortify the weakness of some with the strength of others. Hence, to live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful “indulgence.”
Adapted from the Misericordiae Vultus,
Proclamation by Pope Francis
for EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Matt. 5:7
Mercy is love and forgiveness enacted.
Jesus has given us very clear instructions on how we are to live our lives: I am to love God, love my neighbor, and keep a forgiving heart. My neighbor is the one with whom I stand face to face in any given moment, and who offers me the opportunity to open my merciful heart.
Life in many ways is divided up into opposites. We may be hungry or full, rich or poor, quite sick or in good health, and filled with sadness or joy. In everything there is division. We experience the good things in life, or we are left wanting. Mercy is a voluntary sorrow and compassion that joins itself to the sufferings of those who are left wanting. The merciful heart keeps watch for those in need, overlooks the obstacles that could be perceived, and responds with kindness and compassion. Mercy is love and forgiveness enacted.
It is through prayer that our hearts become increasingly open to God’s transforming grace. In our prayer, the way is cleared for God’s grace to cultivate the soil of the heart for the garden of light. The light of God’s grace granted in our sacraments and in prayer is cumulative, and gradually becomes a natural extension of who we are, more and more of the time. God does not leave us wanting, but sometimes we turn in other ways. God always takes us back.
God’s mercy is a grace freely given, and as I believe this is so, then it is my loving and faith-filled responsibility to extend this gift to others. God grants us the grace of a merciful heart, a heart that is not indifferent to the needs of others, but one that can offer a kind word and sometimes so much more, a heart that can at the very least pray for whatever it cannot heal or rectify; a heart that cares as Jesus does.
"Be merciful, as your Father is merciful." Luke 6