Throughout Pope Francis’ message (Misericordiae Vultus) that explains the current Jubilee Year of Mercy, he mentions the need for human instruments of Divine Mercy. He speaks of “missionaries of Mercy” (specifically in reference to priests) that is applicable to every disciple of Christ. Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man (cfr Misericordiae Vultus 2) and in a concrete way, Jesus Christ is that Bridge and the face of God’s Mercy (cfr Misericordiae Vultus 1). Our role as Christian disciples is to put people in direct contact with Jesus the Bridge.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines mercy as “the loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends.” Mercy, if you think about it, is intricately associated with sin according to the Catechism’s definition: Mercy is God’s response to our sin. Sin is real and is the reality of the fallen human condition. Man chooses by his own free will to reject God’s continuous offer of love. That is what sin is: the refusal of God’s invitation of love… That’s the bad news. The good news is that God doesn’t give up on man. Ever! God’s response to sin is mercy. This is how He creatively chooses to overcome sin: Mercy. God’s Mercy reveals His fundamental attitude toward us: He firmly believes and desires that we can change for the better! This is what “conversion” means: to repent, to turn away from our refusal of God’s love and to turn toward Him. In God’s book, none of us is ever a “lost cause”, but there’s always hope for changing for the better with the assistance of God’s grace. God believes that I’m capable of conversion, and this is why Jesus is continuously exhorting us to accept the invitation of conversion, by “repenting and believing in the Gospel” (cfr Mk 1:15).
Pope Francis has established “Holy Doors” in specific churches in every diocese throughout the world. These Holy Doors symbolize the “Door of Mercy” and are intended to be opened and to remain open for the duration of the Jubilee year. There’s a profound significance in this “open door” policy: the doors of God’s Mercy can never be shut! In John’s Gospel (cfr 10:9), Jesus refers to Himself as “the Door”, hinting at this notion of being a Door of Mercy through which all sinners are warmly invited. The Holy Doors can also symbolize our soul. In Revelation 3:20, God declares, “”I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” Similarly, St. Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) exhorted Christians everywhere to “open wide the doors [of our soul] to Christ”. Do I believe in God’s open door policy of Mercy in my own life? Do I keep the doors of my soul wide open to God’s Mercy?
Pope Francis points out that Mercy expresses God’s relationship toward us, and as good children of the Father, mercy ought to be the salient characteristic that distinguishes us as His children in the world (cfr Misericordiae Vultus 9). Would others readily recognize mercy as a prominent attribute in me? We are all called to be “missionaries” of God’s Mercy, sent forth in heralding the good news of God’s Mercy the bridges the chasm of sin in our lives. Just as Our Lord entrusted St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) with the mission of being an “Apostle” or missionary of God’s Mercy, so too, does He entrust this mission to every Christian disciple of His. How we express this missionary activity of God’s Mercy toward others will be wide-ranging. I can be a missionary of God’s Mercy when I remind people that sin is real, but so is God’s Mercy (spiritual works of Mercy: admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted). I can be a missionary of God’s Mercy when I encourage and invite them to encounter Jesus – the open Door of Mercy – especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation. I can be a missionary of God’s Mercy when I imitate Christ by forgiving offences and bearing patiently those who do us ill. Let us imitate Jesus in understanding how He is calling us to be a missionary of Mercy. Let us not forget to find inspiration in the lives of those who’ve followed Christ as disciples in heroically living out God’s Mercy as missionaries: the saints, especially, Mary, the “Mother of Mercy” (cfr “Hail Holy Queen” prayer).
In order to live out the vocation of being a “missionary of God’s Mercy”, I must first encounter God’s Mercy in my life (one cannot give what one has not received). Ponder the 2-fold symbolism of Holy Doors as God’s open Door of Mercy and the door of my soul. Secondly, what’s one resolution I can make in welcoming God’s grace in such a way so that mercy may become a more salient personal attribute?