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Father Muench Says...

Followers of Christ called to be merciful

March 30, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

This Sunday, as with the Sunday after Easter every year, is designated as Mercy Sunday.

Holy Week – that week before Easter, the final week of Lent – is always a time to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.  During Holy Week, we walked with Jesus though his Last Supper, we joined with Jesus in his Passion and Death and we find new life with Jesus in his Resurrection. 

Each of these events demonstrate God’s great Mercy.

There are two things that I have learned over and over again each Holy Week.  The first is compassion. 
During his Passion Jesus demonstrated for us real compassion.  As the soldiers were nailing Jesus to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them.” Then, while hanging on the cross, one of the thieves berates Jesus; the other asks to be remembered.  Jesus recognizes his sincerity.  He says to him, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” 

What a powerful moment.  I pray that one day I will hear these words from the Lord – when my time comes.
As followers of Jesus all of us are challenged to become more merciful, more compassionate.  What does this mean? How do we hope to make it possible?

Being more compassionate means more than just being nice to a person – although that is spiritually a good thing.  However, more than that being compassionate means living a total compassionate way of life.  Christians should radiate compassion through their way we live our lives.

I realize this is not easy.  We live in a world filled with times of violence and divisiveness.  People will often respond to me that things happen, that reacting in anger or holding a grudge happens.  Jesus demonstrates to us that even in tough situations – even in violent situations – compassion is possible.

I know only too well that many find being too compassionate as an act of weakness.  With Jesus I say there is strength in compassion.  A compassionate person shows a strength and is unafraid to keep his or her self-control. Staying in control keeps us always prepared to make the right decision and to do the right thing.

We, Catholics, experience the compassion and mercy of Our God in the Sacrament of Penance.  In faith, we know and believe that our God is merciful.  We have confidence that God will forgive and guide us to peace. 

We should not be afraid to meet the Lord in this sacrament.  Yet, many do come to confession with fear, anxious because of their failings and sinfulness.  They are embarrassed by their weakness.  They are upset by their lack of faith.  They know that Jesus has promised them yet, they hesitate.  The Lord Jesus tells us not to be afraid; he teaches us that God is compassionate.  This fear unfortunately often stays with us even as we get older. Too many of us still struggle with our faith in God’s compassion.

The other lesson that we should have learned is gratitude.

Lent – Holy Week – Easter should have led us to Mercy Sunday with a deep, even intense gratitude.  Our reaction to God’s compassion is obviously gratitude.

When all we do is a response to God’s great love with gratitude, we truly discover who we are and how we should live.  This gratitude must also be a recognition to the many people who have been part of our lives, who have helped and watched over us.

This gratitude should also give us a recognition of the many events that the Lord has placed in our lives to lead and guide us.  Our response must be gratitude. We must make gratitude a way of life.  Such a way of life gives us a real meaning to what life is all about.  You can’t say “thank you” enough.  Such a way of life becomes special. 

This gratitude always leads to compassion.   

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