On the first Sunday of Advent this year, the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world will witness the inauguration of an Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy promulgated by Pope Francis. The Holy Father has stated: It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective. It is a sign of the solicitude of Pope Francis for sinners and the marginalized that he has announced this Year of Mercy. He invites every member of the Church to carry God’s message of mercy, made evident in the life, death and resurrection of our Saviour, to those in our immediate surroundings, our families, our friends, our fellow citizens and our brothers and sisters of the Church.
During this Year of Mercy the fount of God’s mercy will be poured out upon humanity as the Church makes available the concrete expression of Christ’s redeeming love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Brother Knights, do you go to this Sacrament regularly, monthly?? Do you remind your family members of the value of this Sacrament? Have you ever thought of inviting one of your friends to seek out the graces of this Sacrament? I can tell you as a pastor that there has been a serious decline in the number of people frequenting the confessional. The sense of sin has diminished; many do things which they once knew to be mortal sins, and still go to Holy Communion as if it doesn’t matter. The problem with many of us is that we have decided that God is so merciful that it doesn’t really matter in the long run what we do. We say to ourselves: God is too good to ever punish anyone with Hell. From that disordered thought flows the nonchalant attitude toward our own personal conversion and that of others. True, we must convert because of love, but fear of punishment is often the initial step towards a profound change of heart. The Year of Mercy will be a waste of time if we do not understand that mercy is what is offered to sinners.
Acknowledgement of sin is a necessary prerequisite for a deeper experience of God’s merciful love. In this year, we will be reminded that the first and foremost beneficiaries of the Year of Mercy are the sinners who are most in need, those in the deepest misery from their sins, those who believe themselves no longer even worthy to approach God and the Church. It is the challenge of the Church, you and I, to find ways to draw sinners to Christ, beginning with our own candid self-examination, and our pleading for a heart full of the tenderness and compassion of the Father welcoming home his prodigal children.
My friends, brother Knights, begin the Year of Mercy with a good confession and invite others to join you. Do not fear the priest nor your own unworthiness. Do not let pride keep you from Christ’s tribunal of mercy. If each and every one of us approaches the throne of Mercy in this Sacrament, we will be set ablaze with a new fire of faith, eager to find ways to put into practice in our daily lives the Works of Mercy. The Church holds up for special attention the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Do you remember well what they are:
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- To feed the hungry;
- to give drink to the thirsty;
- to clothe the naked;
- to harbor the homeless;
- to visit the sick;
- to ransom the captive;
- to bury the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- To instruct the ignorant;
- to counsel the doubtful;
- to admonish sinners;
- to bear wrongs patiently;
- to forgive offences willingly;
- to comfort the afflicted;
- to pray for the living and the dead.
The Knights of Columbus has been renowned for its charitable works; our fraternal order will be even more edifying to others if we renew our dedication to these Works of Mercy in this Year of Mercy.
You will be hearing a lot more about this Holy Year as we journey with the Church over the next 12 months. Decide that you will be a faithful son of your Mother, the Church, by supporting our Holy Father, our Archbishop and pastors as they cast the nets wide to bring to God an abundant catch of souls.
Father Richard Whalen