There is a story told of the future Good Pope John when he was Cardinal Archbishop of Venice. Dining with some of his senior clergy in his residence he listened as his Vicar General spoke harshly of a particular priest who was drinking too much and causing scandal.
The future Pope took his empty wine glass and asked, “Monsignor, to whom does this glass belong?” “It is yours, Your Eminence,” was the reply.
The Cardinal let the glass fall to the ground – then, indicating the broken glass, he asked, “And now to whom does it belong?” The answer, “It is still yours.” The Cardinal replied, “And so it is with the brother you speak of – he is still my brother!”
Those who deserve love least need love most.
Mercy is the most beautiful face of God. There is more mercy in the Lord than sin in us. We will always underestimate His goodness.
If we as Church forget these basic truths, fail to open ourselves to that mercy and mirror that mercy we are all lost.
There has been a huge international response to Pope Francis’ interview with its tone of compassion and graciousness. And some in the Church are trying to “explain away” some of his statements. And, as expected, some sectors of the media are reading into his words what is not there. But overall there is a sense of breathing in lung-fulls of fresh air; the response has a tone of hope and freedom and blessing.
Why? Because we are all hearing once again with simplicity and clarity the Gospel of Grace. This is the Word of love that draws and attracts us even with all our sin and brokenness, and then refreshed in mercy we are able to accept the redeeming grace that heals and puts us on a new path. He loves us first always and frees us to love in return.
In one of his homilies – commenting on the phrase, “Jesus was teaching in the temple each day” – Gregory the Great said that the Lord continues to teach daily in the temple that is His Body, the Church, if only we have ears to hear.
Through His servant Francis the Lord is definitely teaching us at this time. We are being taught that the Church is to be a place of welcome, mercy and healing. It is as if the Lord repeats to all of us what he once said to those who complained about Him eating with sinners: “Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy not sacrifice.”
May we learn their meaning at depth!
Our fundamental vocation is to rejoice in the Gospel of Grace – to be a people who continue to experience the tender mercy of God, and celebrate, proclaim and live in that mercy.
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