Over the last few days, the visit of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Poland has featured greatly in the media. During his time there, he has constantly brought us back to the theme of mercy, reminding us that mercy is a Person, not simply a word or an idea or a concept; that mercy is real and must be expressed in works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual –
“These help us to be open to God’s mercy, to implore the grace to appreciate that without mercy we can do nothing; without mercy, neither I nor you nor any of us can do a thing.”
He has reminded us of the power of mercy, which can achieve miracles of grace and of nature, even when all seems beyond hope. After all, the Way of the Cross, walked by the Lord, was a way of mercy and in carrying His Cross upon it, He redeemed us.
“Jesus saves the world through mercy and the Way of the Cross is a way of mercy”
The Holy Father has also reminded us of those words from the Beatitudes – ‘blessed are the merciful’ – when he told us – “Anyone who performs works of mercy is not afraid of death”.
For we will all be judged by the degree to which we have been merciful in life; the merciful will obtain mercy. And so, mercy must never remain an idea, a concept – it must be real and living, evident in all we are and in all we do. We need to be living reflections of Divine Mercy, radiating that mercy whose Source is the very Person of Jesus Christ. Mercy makes us forgetful of self, opening our hearts to the needs of others. And mercy remains beyond all else, encouraging us to adopt the spirit of prayer.
As the Holy Father said this week – “When everyone else surrenders, mercy reaches for the powerful weapon of prayer”
Prayer is a spiritual work of mercy, when we pray for others and for their needs, both the living and the dead. Today, the Holy Father gave us a concrete example of these words when he stopped to pray silently whilst visiting Auschwitz.
Sometimes prayer is all we have to give – it is not lessened because of that. Prayer is enormously powerful, for it obtains the grace and the mercy of God; and these are infinite.
Sitting prayerfully in the cell where St Maximilian Kolbe was starved, having offered to take the place of a man who had been condemned to death, the Holy Father wrote – “Lord, have mercy on Your people! Lord, forgive such cruelty!”
Mercy truly extends out beyond the individual, although this may be where it begins. Mercy begets mercy. Mercy has a communal and a global dimension.
This point was touched on by Cardinal Dsiwitz earlier in the week, who reminded and encouraged the young people at World Youth Day – “Returning to your countries, homes and communities, carry the spark of mercy, reminding everyone that ‘blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy'”.
I pray we may all listen to and heed this call of the Holy Father to become living witnesses of mercy, and that our response to his call to mercy, following in the footsteps of our “heralds of mercy, the humble Sister Faustina and John Paul II”, will resonate and persist long after this week has ended, bearing good fruit for all the world.