by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
Yes, I believe that this is a time for mercy.
The Church is showing her maternal side,
her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded.
She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors,
She looks for them on the streets,
She gathers them in,
She embraces them,
She takes care of them,
She makes them feel loved.
-Pope Francis
The Name of God is Mercy
The holy doors of mercy swing both ways. While Pope Francis invites our church to open its holy doors so pilgrims might walk through to find welcome and experience God’s mercy and compassion, it is also necessary for the church, the people of God, to go out through those holy doors and out into the streets to share the mercy of God with those who cry out as Bartimaeus, as the lepers, as the Canaanite woman, as so many on the margins in the gospels did to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on me.”
The wounded are everywhere. Some are visible as the wounded and scarred that I saw on the streets of San Francisco last week. But other wounds are internal, unable to be seen. In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis quotes the famous phrase of St. Pope John XXIII when he called for Vatican II and opened the doors and windows of the church to let the world and the Holy Spirit into our stuffy churches, saying the church “prefers to use the medicine of mercy” rather than “weapons of rigor.” Francis also quotes his immediate predecessors in the Chair of St. Peter—Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict—all of whom spoke often and eloquently about God’s mercy. In instituting Divine Mercy Sunday, St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Church lives an authentic life when it professes and proclaims mercy” and must lead “humanity to the font of mercy.”
In his proclamation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis compared the church to a “field hospital where the treatment is given above all to those who are most wounded.” When he speaks of this image, I think of the great television series, MASH, which inspired many homilies in its day. The emphasis is on mobile—the surgical hospital had to be like missionaries ready to move where the wounded were. There they did triage as they made immediate decisions about who needed to be attended to first, whose wounds were the most urgent to address.
As missionaries we must be light on our feet, open and willing to go where we are needed most. Gaspar certainly underscored this when he noted how as missionaries we might not be able to keep all of our apostolates but he urged us not to forget the poor.