“Look upon your servants, Lord, that we are sending as messengers of mercy, salvation and peace. Guide their steps and sustain them with the power of your grace” – Pope Francis
Today, Ash Wednesday, 9th February 2016, the Holy Father Pope Francis sent out more than one thousand Missionaries of Mercy, during a special service in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
Chosen by their own Bishops, these Missionaries have been granted special privileges by the Holy Father, including the prerogative to forgive some sins which are usually reserved to the Holy See alone.
Above all, they are to be merciful in all their dealings with the people they meet and to pay very special attention to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession.
The figure of the Missionary is described in the Bull of Indication, ‘Misericordiae Vultus’. They are to be –
- a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness;
- facilitators for all, with no one excluded, of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again;
- guided by the words, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all;
- inspiring preachers of Mercy;
- heralds of the joy of forgiveness;
- welcoming, loving, and compassionate Confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.
They are to be a tangible sign that Divine Mercy is offered to all, the only condition being that we must ask for it and be receptive to it and – above all – TRUST in it.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a very tangible sign of that mercy, a moment of grace in which the mercy of God tenderly caresses the soul in all it’s human frailty, misery and sinfulness. This si why the Missionaries are to place such an emphasis upon this Sacrament.
Speaking about today’s Mass readings, Pope Francis noted that those readings contain two invitations.
Firstly, we are invited by God to be reconciled with Him – and to do that, we must acknowledge our need for reconciliation, for His mercy. That, said the Holy Father, is the first step of our journey as Christians and it takes us through a door where the Merciful Lord awaits us. The task of the Missionaries, he said, was to help us to open these doors of our hearts despite the various obstacles we may place in the way.
The second invitation is to return to the Lord “with our whole heart”. How do we do that? Through prayer, fasting, and acts of charity toward our neighbour. And these three, we are to do from the very depths of our being.
“Dear brothers, you will be able to help open the doors of the heart, to overcome shame, to not flee from the light. May your hands bless and lift up your brothers and sisters with paternity; that through you the gaze and the hands of the Father might rest on His sons and cure their wounds!” – Pope Francis