Monday, August 22, 2016

Mercy in the Church

God is the great gatherer – whatever our backgrounds, whatever our talents, whatever our weaknesses, whatever separates us and scatters us, whether it be our own fault or the fault of others, God wants to gather us together to experience his overwhelming goodness, tenderness, and fidelity, in other words, his mercy.

In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus utters a warning: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus’ warnings have a purpose: they are meant to keep us from hardening our hearts. Hardness of heart is the one thing that can block mercy, because it refuses mercy to others. Jesus uses the sharp edge of mercy; he speaks the truth in love– to gather us back from the dead-end of self-sufficiency and into the company of those who realize their need for mercy.

And it is the Spirit’s task to make the face of mercy present in our midst. In the Church the Word of God punctures our hardened hearts to soften them up; in the Church the Spirit makes a new start possible in the Sacrament of Confession; through the Church the Spirit gathers the most diverse set of human beings imaginable so that he can smooth out our rough edges.

But for those who still may have difficulty finding God’s mercy in the Church, the Spirit brings forth another face– the face of Mary. In her we see what the Church is meant to be and will be. This humble woman entered through the narrow gate of mercy, enduring the trials which are part of being merciful. She is blessed, because she was merciful, first to her son, even to the cross, then to the frightened disciples, and finally to all of us in our every need. She continues the gathering of God’s children, as a merciful mother but also as one who knows and tells us the demands of the cross.
Photo by Br. Brian. Excerpts from Fr. Vincent's homily for the Twenty-first Sunday of the Year.