Events today in St-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Rouen, France, have shocked not only the Catholic world, but the entire world. All people of good will are rightly horrified at the brutal murder of Fr Jacques Hamel, an 84 year old Catholic Priest, whilst he was celebrating Mass in a quiet Church. Fr Hamel was doing nothing more than bringing the Sacraments to the people of a neighbouring parish, where he was helping out. And yet, in the house of God, murderous sacrilege took place.
The easy response is one of anger and outrage; those are perhaps the initial – and expected – human reactions. But if we profess the Catholic faith, and if we truly believe in the message of Divine Mercy, then that is where we need to try to leave our human emotions and reactions, asking for the grace of God to help us to respond in mercy.
The message of Divine Mercy is the same as the Gospel message – it is one of love and compassion; not only when it is easy to be loving and compassionate, but when it is hardest to be so. The Gospel is very clear on how we must respond when our neighbour offends us, and how often we must forgive.
Perhaps for many, today is one of those days when it is hardest to forgive.
Fr Hamel was a man of God, a man whose life was given over to the service of others, following in the footsteps of the Lord and His Apostles, the first Priests. Like all Priests, there would have been a great many occasions when he was called to minister not only to those for whom it was easy to do so, but to many for whom it would have been a hard thing to do. And yet he was obliged, in serving the Lord, to do precisely that; the same applies to all of us. We must see the Face of Christ in all people, those who do us good and those who do us harm.
Our faith is the faith of Calvary. Only by walking the way of the Cross can we ever reach the joy of the Resurrection. Our Master is a crucified Master, His glorious Body still bearing the marks of His Passion and Death. Those marks are clearly visible in the Image of Divine Mercy to remind us of this.
And so today, hard though it may be, we must ask the Lord for mercy for this world, so filled with darkness and hatred, asking that His grace and mercy transform the world and each soul, replacing darkness with His light, replacing hatred with His love, praying “that in difficult moments, we might not despair nor become despondent; but with great confidence, submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself”.
Perhaps tonight, as we pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Hamel, we might also take a moment to pray, too, in charity for those who were responsible for his death. I suspect that in Heaven at this moment, Fr Hamel is doing precisely that.
Jesus, we TRUST in You.