by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
The prophet Isaiah provides the template for living the tender mercy of our God. Chapter 58 is must reading for every minister of mercy who seeks to restore relationships and be an ambassador of reconciliation in our church and world. Isaiah reflects how God is not interested in the kind of fasting the people are doing as a religious ritual. They are simply practicing piety that ends up having their stomachs growling almost as loudly as they are growling at one another: “Your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.”
The kind of fast God desires is one that moves a person to practice the works of mercy: “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.” The quality of mercy God desires is “sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, clothing the naked when you see them and not turning your back on your own.” God desires that we treat one another with dignity and respect. When we do, when we care for one another with compassion, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.”
When we seek to meet the needs of our neighbors, we will be called “repairers of the breach.” When we stretch out our hands across aisles and miles to those on the other side of the great divides that exist in our personal lives, in our religious communities, in our neighborhoods, and in our world, we will be living the tender mercy of our God.
During this year of mercy, we seek to break down the barriers of exclusivity by becoming an expansive community of belonging. We belong to each other and our liberation and salvation is bound up together. We become repairers of the breach in the same way that Jesus did. When God saw the breach between heaven and earth, God came to stand in the breach in the person of Jesus. This is what we do: we stand in the breach with our flesh and blood, with Word and Sacrament. If we are to repair the breach, presence—real presence—is the key.
Where are the breaches in our lives and in our relationships? What relationships need to be restored? Where are the dividing lines that separate us?
I invite you to share your reflections in the Weekly Wine Press on how you are responding to the challenge of Pope Francis in living this Jubilee Year of Mercy in your personal or parish life, your community and ministry.