Year of Mercy

Logo for Holy Year of MercyPope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy that began last Tuesday, December 8th . The Holy Father has asked that it be a church-wide celebration and reflection on God’s mercy, so that we can intentionally be sources of that Mercy in the world.

The logo of the celebration comes from Luke 6:36, “Be merciful as the Father is merciful,” that appears alongside an image that deserves some inspection and reflection. The logo is oddly shaped – rather looking like an almond. The almond shape, called a mandorla, was a feature of early and medieval iconography. When used with the image of Christ, it invites the viewer to reflect on the two natures of Christ, divine and human. The differing color bands of blue, increasingly darker as one moves inward is also a recurring theme in these icons. It reflects what is called the “apophatic way” on reflecting on God. In the apophatic way, it acknowledges that there is mystery at the center of the way – a mystery that is, in the end, impenetrable, but nonetheless calls us ever inward in reflection. At the center of the darkest color, where Jesus’ feet are positioned, is the great mystery of the Incarnation – that in the person of Jesus, humanity and divinity are joined: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Continue reading

Being Merciful

Logo for Holy Year of MercyPope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this December 8th . In Judaism and Christianity, the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins, forgiving debts, and reconciling broken relationships. It is a year in which the people of God are asked to especially make manifest the mercy of God. So maybe, here at the beginning, it is a good time to think about the meaning of “mercy.”

Merriam-Webster offers that mercy is the “forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.” Sadly, that is the limit of how many understand God: the grim judge who is holding back power and punishment even though we deserve it. Such an understanding never gives any insight into the nature of God or his divine motivation or desire. But we do know about God’s desire – He desires that all be saved (1 Tim 2:4). And so the people of God have been reflecting on such things for a while. Continue reading

A Shared Vision

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaOur gospel is known as the story of the Widow’s Mite. As you just heard, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. A common explanation of the story is that Jesus praises the poor widow and holds her up as an example to us all because she gave “her whole livelihood.” So even though the rich people gave more, it was just for show and only from their chump change. Not the widow, she is “all in” in what she gives to God. The moral of the story is that small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich. And so I could have a seat at this point, leave you to think about your weekly offering, your APA pledge… are you giving chump change, or are your contributing your whole livelihood? I could (hey I just did!) but there is more here than meets the eye. Continue reading