YEAR OF MERCY PASTORAL LETTER  HOLY DOORS FAMILY HOLY HOURS EVANGELIZATION CONFERENCE 6.25.16

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Mercy_header02In observance of the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis,
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has issued a pastoral letter to the people of the Diocese of Trenton.

Listen & download Bishop’s Pastoral Letter HERE >>
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INTRODUCTION

When you look into someone’s face, you can often see many things. At times you see a peace and satisfaction that resides in a person’s soul. Other times, you see worry or distraction, confusion or anxiety, wonder or hesitation. Perhaps you see weariness or sadness, anger or frustration. There are times when a face betrays loneliness or a hunger to be loved, a faraway look or just a blank stare. A smile, a frown, a tear, a furrowed brow, a curiosity or special interest, a look of love: a face often reveals more than words might ever say.

While we can often see many things in the faces of others, things that are hard to hide, we should also remember that others can see many

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similar things in our own face.  St. Jerome once wrote to a widow, “The face is the mirror of the mind and eyes; without speaking, they confess the secrets of the heart (Letter 5).”

In the Old Testament we read in the Psalms, “always look to the Lord and his strength; always seek his face (Psalm 105: 4).”  The Book of Chronicles advises that we “rely on the mighty Lord; constantly seek his face (1 Chronicles 16: 11).”

When we seek the Lord’s face, we will find it most often in the face of others.  When we seek and find the face of the Lord, what is it that we really see there?

“THE HOLY YEAR OF MERCY”

YearMercy_logowebOur Holy Father Pope Francis has extended the scriptural invitation to “seek the face of the Lord” in the year ahead, a “Holy Year of Mercy” beginning December 8, 2015.  Pope Francis believes that, at this point in history, the world needs to reflect upon God’s mercy.

“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in his announcement of the Holy Year.  “These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.

 

Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God (Vultus Misericordiae, VM, 1).”

“Mercy,” he continues, “… reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness (VM, 2).”

In this, my second Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Trenton, I would like to reflect with you on some aspects of “mercy,” of “truth,” and of their relationship to one another.

Mercy is a free gift of God that, when given, draws us into God’s very being,
making God present “to” us and then, “through” us to others.

SOME THOUGHTS ON “MERCY”

For us, as Catholic Christians, the understanding and expression of our faith begins with the Sacred Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. We believe the Bible to be the Word of God, the primary source and foundation of revealed truth. In the Scriptures, the words that have been translated into English as “mercy” are the Hebrew term “hesed” and the Greek expression “eleos.” There are other scriptural words as well, scholars tell us, that are used to express the notion of “mercy” as we have come to use the word, but for our purposes here, we look to the Sacred Scriptures’ references to “mercy” as something – an “attribute” the philosophers call it – rooted in the very nature and essence of God. That is where we begin.

In the New Testament, we read something about God’s “nature and essence” when John writes in one of his letters, “God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him/her (1 John 4: 16).”

Mercy is the love freely shown to us by God who first reveals himself to us and makes his presence known and felt. We do not “earn” this mercy; we do not “deserve” it; we do not have a “right” to it. Mercy is a free gift of God that, when given, draws us into God’s very being, making God present “to” us and then, “through” us to others.

Hands_webAgain, Pope Francis writes,

As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other (VM, 9).

The Lord Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5: 7).” As we are, as we do, so shall we receive in and through the Church.

Pope Francis highlights “intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living” with respect to mercy. If we want to consider the mercy we are shown by God and are, as a result, simultaneously called by God to live out, then we should reflect a bit on these three “concretes” that Pope Francis identifies.
First, “intentions.” The dictionary defines an “intention” as a “determination to act in a certain way.” Next, “attitudes.” We commonly use the word “attitude” to describe our “disposition” or “way of thinking or feeling about someone or something.” Finally, our intentions and attitudes consequently lead to “behaviors” or “actions/conduct” in life.  This “trifecta” – intentions, attitudes and behaviors  – guides us to look into our minds, hearts and souls to see if and how mercy of God can be found there.

To “find mercy,” however, we must first know what we are looking for.  We have already acknowledged that mercy expresses and reveals the “essence of God,” the “very nature of God.”  We should consider that a bit more closely.

There are many uses of the term “mercy” in the Church: scriptural, theological, liturgical and so forth. Quite simply, mercy is the love of God shown to us, his “self-revelation,” received by us and shared by us with others.  Mercy shows itself in God’s care, concern and compassion for us and, in turn, our care, concern and compassion for others in the concrete situations of their lives and in the forgiveness extended toward those who wrong us. Again, mercy is freely given and not merited.

In the experience of most people, showing mercy lowers the defenses of both the giver and the receiver, so that both parties can experience life in God as God intended it to be.  Mercy does not diminish judgment or justice, as some suggest.  Mercy recognizes what lies before us in life as it truly is and makes what it encounters better, more worthy of love, of compassion, of forgiveness – not because the one shown mercy has earned or merits any of those things but because we all need love, compassion and forgiveness to be what we ought to be; given our fallen human nature, only mercy can make that happen.  Mercy sees the truth of God’s creation as “good” although somehow wounded by the introduction of evil and sin into human experience.  Mercy calls creation and our wounded humanity back to its origin and nature in God.

“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.” – Pope Francis

Mercy is God’s love, revealed in God’s intentions, attitudes and behaviors toward us.  It is God’s love that creates; it is God’s compassion that sees and understands what has been broken in his creation, in our humanity; it is God’s forgiveness that redeems his creation and our humanity, despite itself, and makes us whole again.  And just when mercy seems beyond our undeserving grasp, at that very moment, God enters into his creation anew, enters into human experience  again as the mystery and grace that is God’s loving presence and mercy takes us in his embrace.  Our thoughts now turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who enlightens our minds.

Mercy helps us understand the Incarnation. Why did “the Word become Flesh and dwell among us (John 1: 14)?” We read in the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3: 16-17).”

Eucharist_webMercy helps us understand the Eucharist. Why did the Lord Jesus give us his very Body and Blood as food and drink? In the Gospel of John we read: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst (John 6: 35)’.” In the Gospel of Luke we read: “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood (Luke 22: 19-20)’.” Because of his mercy and love for us, Christ gave us himself, whole and entire, in the Eucharist.

Mercy helps us understand the forgiveness of sins.  We read in the Gospel of Luke: “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (Luke 9: 56).” From the Cross, the Lord Jesus’ last, saving words have sounded through the centuries: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do (Luke 23: 34).”

Mercy helps us understand the Passion.  We read in the Gospel of John: “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).” And, again, in John: “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15: 13).”

Mercy helps us understand the Resurrection.  In the Letter of Peter we read: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1: 3).”  Mercy gives rise to a hope that would not be possible had Jesus not risen from the dead.

Mercy helps us understand the Church of Christ.  In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “You are Peter and upon this ‘rock’ I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16: 18-19).” Pope Francis reminds us: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love (VM, 10).”  And Paul writes that we “do not lose heart by the mercy of God (2 Corinthians 4: 1).”

How do we in the Church show mercy?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reminds us of the long-standing practice of mercy in Christian tradition: the spiritual and corporal works of mercy:

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God (CCC, 2447).

These are good, practical embodiments of what Holy Year of Mercy encourages us to consider.

Finally, mercy helps us understand Truth.  Authentic mercy always leads us to the recognition of Truth because mercy is based upon Truth.  The Psalmist sings “Mercy and Truth shall meet (Psalm 85: 10).” In Christ, mercy and truth meet together.  It is unmistakably clear in his intentions, attitudes and behaviors throughout the Gospels.  In fact, I do not believe that we can experience authentic mercy without the simultaneous experience of Truth because one really does not really exist without the other.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8: 31).”

SOME THOUGHTS ON “TRUTH”

We are all familiar with the tense moment of confrontation between Pontius Pilate and the Lord Jesus when Pilate demands “what is truth?” in response to the Lord Jesus’ revelation “I have come into this world to testify to the truth (John 18: 37-38).”  Pilate was not the first to ask such a question and the Lord Jesus was not the first to be on the receiving end.  “Truth” has been the subject of study, inquiry and debate throughout most of recorded history.  Philosophers, theologians, scholars, students, people of faith, people of no faith have questioned and argued its meaning down through the ages.  Sooner or later, we simply have to settle on an idea or definition of truth and go with it.

When I studied scholastic (medieval) philosophy in the seminary many years ago, I remember reading various philosophical definitions of truth.  The one that made the most sense to me was that of St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae (ST): “truth is the conformity of the mind to that which exists in reality (ST I.16.1).”  Notice that there are two parts to his definition: (1) that which exists in reality — in other words, that which is; and, (2) the conformity of the mind, the intellect, to it.  I will spare you a breakdown of philosophers’ reactions over the centuries, both “pro and con,” to Aquinas’ idea because it seems so obviously accurate to me and it is, after all, the definition I will use here and throughout this letter.

Bible_webLet me give you a simple example.  I am typing on a laptop computer.  It is not a typewriter or a tape recorder although I am typing on it and it is recording my ideas.  It is not a personal computer (PC) although it is my personal possession and it is a computer.  It is what is known everywhere as a “laptop computer.” That is what it is and how it is known.

Back to the Lord Jesus. “I have come into this world to testify to the truth,” I quoted earlier from the Lord Jesus’ dialogue with Pontius Pilate.  Elsewhere in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus reveals himself as “truth” when he says to Thomas, the Doubting Apostle, later in John’s Gospel: “I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14: 6).”  Truth is, as we acknowledge, that which is, and our ability to see, comprehend, understand and conform our minds to it as it actually is: here, the Lord Jesus.

There is a definite connection between the Lord Jesus’ self-identifying declaration in the Gospel of John – “I am the truth” – and the long-standing Old Testament concept of God. In the Book of Exodus, we read the familiar story of “Moses at the Burning Bush (Exodus 3: 1-15).” When God first appeared and spoke to him, Moses asked God for his name so that he could tell the Israelites. “I am who am” was God’s response (Exodus 3: 14). The fact that God revealed and identified himself in a way that the Moses and the Israelites could understand in order to know him, makes it possible that their minds could correspond to his reality and find “truth,” the same truth revealed by the Lord Jesus centuries later when he identified himself.

As Catholic Christians, we believe the Bible to be the “Word of God, the Word of the Lord” and, therefore the truth. Scholars refer to this truth as the “inerrancy of Scripture.” There are all kinds of literature and literary forms employed by the inspired authors of biblical texts, some which even differ from one another, but the truth of their revelation is not contradictory. They point to the same reality. That is what we believe as Catholic Christians. Different literary forms or genres are used to make truth accessible and known to the human mind and intellect. Truth, therefore, has a claim on our human minds and intellects, which results in human behaviors and conduct that conform to it.

Let’s consider the Lord Jesus as “the Truth” elsewhere in the New Testament:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … all things came to be through him and without him, nothing is.  What came to be through him was life, and his life was light for the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1: 1-35).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth (John 1: 14).

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  For no one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (John 1: 17-18).

He who does the truth comes to the light that his deeds may be clearly seen that they have been done in God (John 3: 20-21).

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8: 31-32).”

The Spirit of truth has come.  He will guide you into all truth (John 16: 13).

Sanctify them in truth, your word is truth.  As you have sent me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify myself that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth (John 17: 17-19).

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect
the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

The Lord Jesus called to himself Apostles upon whom and through whom he established his Church.  They, in turn, preached truth to the early Christian communities.

And I tell you, “You are Peter and upon this ‘rock’ I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16: 18). 

If we claim to have fellowship with him (the Lord Jesus) and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth (1 John 1: 6).

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3: 18).

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13).

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth (Ephesians 6: 14).

We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4: 2).

He (the Lord Jesus) chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created (James 1: 18).

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved …rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy: 2: 15).

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 1: 4).

(God our savior) wants all people to be saved and to come to acknowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2: 4).

In the Lord Jesus, we walk in truth.  That has been and is the long journey of the Church, unparalleled anywhere else in human history.

As Catholic Christians, we believe that not only the Holy Scriptures but also the Church’s teaching and tradition are fonts of God’s revealed truth.  Knowing truth, trusting truth should make a genuine difference in our lives.

The Catholic Church has hit some rough spots over the centuries, for sure. But there have also been many more positive developments and external changes over the ages, including the ways we express the truth(s) of our faith. Truth itself has not changed. The Lord Jesus Christ “is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8)!” The Lord Jesus has not changed his mind about the Catholic Church he established either.  It is still responsible for revealing truth, presenting truth, teaching truth and witnessing truth, day in and day out, every day.  We read in the Second Letter to Timothy:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4: 1-4).

St. Paul has hit the nail on the head here, so to speak. People have been “tickling the ears” of Christians sincerely seeking truth from the earliest days of the Church, setting themselves up as “teachers in accordance with their own desires,” working for their own ends trying to turn faithful “ears from the truth” in favor of “myths” they propose instead.  But, as Jesus cautions in the Gospel of Matthew, “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7: 14).”

The Catechism reminds us:

In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth. … To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”  To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth … (CCC 2466).

In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth. … To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”  To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth … (CCC 2466). 

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth ( CCC 2467).”

This is why the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” believes what it does, professes what it does, teaches what it does, practices what it does; the “deposit of faith” as it is known. This “deposit of faith” in the Catholic Church includes a comprehensive creedal statement of truth(s) as well as a set of valid moral teachings and expectations based upon it for a reason: to lead faithful Catholic Christians through that “small gate and narrow way that leads to life,” away from “myths” and the “tickling of ears.” Truth is not truth because we believe it. Truth is true whether we believe it or not. Truth is not true today and false tomorrow. Truth is not the object of whims; it is not the subject of opinion polls or majority votes; it is not the “stuff” of arbitrary decisions based upon what is easiest or most convenient to follow or what “feels good” at any particular point in time. Truth is the Lord Jesus dwelling among us in the Church he established. Truth is what the Church teaches based upon his revelation, unfolding in tradition from generation to generation. Truth is “Peter” upon whom the Lord Jesus built his Church so that, as he said, “what is bound on earth is so bound in heaven (Matthew 18: 18).”

“Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself,
pick up his cross and follow me (Matthew 10: 38; Matthew 16: 24; Luke 14: 27).”

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE RELATIONSHIP OF “MERCY AND TRUTH”

Jesus_writes_webMercy has appeared in the forefront of many conversations in the Catholic Church recently at every level, sometimes giving the impression that the expression of mercy is something “new” in the Church. What “tickles the ears” in many of these conversations is the notion that if mercy prevails, “anything goes” and “everything is all right.” It does not matter who you are or what you believe or say or do, mercy is a guaranteed safety net that you can count on when you fall. This kind of “tickling” suggests that the Church’s teachings should be tempered with mercy – perhaps even changed or eliminated – so that the “sting” will be taken out of them; so that they do not inconvenience or offend anyone; so that they do not cause anyone to be singled out or made to feel different from the rest of society; so that we can better tolerate and get along with each other, no matter what; to “co-exist” as the bumper sticker advertises.

Those thoughts do “tickle the ears” but, unfortunately for those who propose or believe them, they are “myths.” They misrepresent or, at the very least, exaggerate the idea of mercy as we have come to know and understand it here. Simply stated, they do not express truth. For example, could the joy of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus have ever taken place without the suffering of his Cross, the ultimate truth of Divine mercy? “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me (Matthew 10: 38; Matthew 16: 24; Luke 14: 27),” the Lord Jesus said. In the life of the Catholic Christian, adherence to the truth is often the cross we bear and mercy, the consequence of carrying it.

The Psalmist proclaims “mercy and truth shall meet (Psalm 85: 10).”  What happens when they do?  Do they recognize one another as coming from the same source?  Do they embrace one another and work together in search of what is good and right and just?  Or do they cancel one another out, as some suggest, or exist in some competitive hierarchy where truth is acknowledged as good but mercy is better, preferable, presumed, even “more Christian.”

Mercy and truth are many times presented as an “either/or proposition.” In the Catholic Church, the same type of argument is often made regarding what the Church asks and requires of Catholics in its law and policy versus what is perceived as “more pastoral.”  How can something truly “pastoral” or “merciful” not flow from what we profess and believe?

The word “mercy” appears as many as 276 times in the Bible, depending upon what translation is used; the word “truth” is used almost as many times.  In the Gospels, there are numerous accounts of the Lord Jesus” — who revealed himself as “the truth (John 14: 6)” — extending mercy to those who crossed his path.  As I reflect upon these accounts and all that I have tried to share in this pastoral letter, my attention turns to the Gospel story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8: 1-11). To me, this narrative best highlights how “mercy and truth meet.”

The Scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman who had committed adultery.  The law of Moses required that such a woman should be stoned to death.  The Lord Jesus knew the law and its demands and was well aware that those leaders were testing him.  He remained quiet in the face of their accusation and test, bent down to write something on the ground, and became the focus of their persistence.  He stood up, glanced around at the crowd and uttered his famous words, “Let the one without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”  No stones were lifted, the crowd dispersed and in that moment, in the encounter of the Lord Jesus with this sinful woman, mercy and truth met.

The Lord Jesus looked at her and asked “Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you.” “Go.  From now on, sin no more (John 8: 10-11).”

Notice that the law was clear. The Lord Jesus did not deny the truth of its demands nor did he change the “law.” Notice, too, that the adulterous woman did not deny the truth of the accusation and asked for nothing. She did not earn forgiveness or even ask for it. The Lord Jesus, however, did not condemn her as he confronted the truth of her situation. The Lord Jesus showed her mercy. And then he sent her on her way, without compromise, reminding her to follow truth.

“Put your hope in the Lord because with the Lord
there is mercy and unlimited forgiveness (Psalm 130: 7).”

CONCLUSION

This particular Gospel passage is especially instructive as we consider the relationship — the meeting of mercy and truth.  There are many laws and teachings and practices that the Catholic Church presents as truth.  Some of them are, indeed, difficult to hear and accept.  That does not diminish or negate their truth.  Some of them are, indeed, difficult to follow and obey; they are crosses to bear.  That does not diminish or negate their truth.  Some of them run counter to popular opinion or prevailing social practices.  That does not diminish or negate their truth.  Luke tells us in his Gospel “there will always be temptations to sin (Luke 17: 1).”  At the same time we must remember the words of the Psalmist: “put your hope in the Lord because with the Lord there is mercy and unlimited forgiveness (Psalm 130: 7).”  Truth is mercy that binds and obliges us.

The medieval philosophers and interpreters of the law remind us: ”no one is bound to the impossible.”  Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, however, “with God, in God, all things are possible (Matthew 19: 26).”  We should never abandon truth simply because it is not easy, convenient or popular.  In the Lord Jesus, all things are possible, mercy and truth.  This Holy Year is a time for all Catholic Christians to put our faith and trust and hope in him, in his mercy, in his truth.

In the Lord Jesus, mercy and truth meet.  In the Catholic Church that he established, mercy and truth meet.  In our daily lives as Catholic Christians, mercy and truth meet.  Both. For us, as Catholic Christians, truth always allows for mercy, not as a replacement for, but as a consequence.  And mercy, authentic mercy, always includes and never denies truth.

May this Holy Year of Mercy be for us the occasion for mercy and truth to meet in our lives.  May Mary, the Mother of Mercy, lead us to her Son, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6).”

O'Connell-DoT-Coat-of-Arms_UpdatedJan2014Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M. Bishop of Trenton
September 14, 2015
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross