In this short Apostolic Letter, issued as the Jubilee Year of Mercy closes, Pope Francis proclaims The Time of Mercy now opening up before humanity. A time in which God wants to give us hearts that can truly experience his love and in turn hearts that can truly love, and reach out to this world of ours that needs to meet true unconditional love.
It is time to promote a ‘culture of mercy, with ‘handcrafted’ works of mercy – he calls for a ‘cultural revolution’ to replace today’s all-pervasive culture of indifference.
Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible. Everything is revealed in mercy; everything is resolved in the merciful love of the Father.
Taking the gospel passages of the woman caught in adultery and the woman wiping the tears from the feet of Jesus, Pope Francis goes to the heart of the mercy of Christ, the one who cried out ‘forgive them father for they do not know what they are doing’. The gratuitousness and magnitude of mercy bring above all freedom and joy a medicine for the depression and sadness found today not least among the young.
We can continue the impulse of the Jubilee Year’s call to conversion and to mercy: Pope Francis details how mercy is celebrated in the Eucharist, in attentive listening to the Word of God, in the Scriptures; in the sacraments of healing – the Anointing of the Sick, and the Penance and Reconciliation.
Here Pope Francis encourages all priests as ministers of this mercy
I invite priests once more to prepare carefully for the ministry of confession, which is a true priestly mission. I thank all of you from the heart for your ministry, and I ask you to be welcoming to all, witnesses of fatherly love whatever the gravity of the sin involved,
attentive in helping penitents to reflect on the evil they have done, clear in presenting moral principles,
willing to walk patiently beside the faithful on their penitential journey,
far-sighted in discerning individual cases and generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness.
Pope Francis sets out a roadmap to live out this mercy in our lives, and speaks movingly of the manifestations of God’s mercy to each of us in consolation, silence, the family, marriage and even in the moment of our death and those of our loved ones. We are called above all to draw close to our brothers and sisters, setting out on a new ‘path of charity’ in our own lives. Mercy, Pope Francis says ‘renews and redeems’, because it is an encounter between the heart of God that warms and heals our human heart.
Now is the time, he says, to ‘unleash the creativity of mercy’ through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the influence of which are a great ‘social value’.
Pope Francis pleads ‘Mercy impels us to roll up our sleeves and set about restoring dignity to millions of people; they are our brothers and sisters who, with us, are called to build a “city which is reliable.”’