2015 Christmas Message - God's Rich Mercy

We have begun the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. The purpose of this Year is clearly stated by Pope Francis when he wrote, “How much I desire that the Year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every human man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God”.

Many people may have a narrow understanding of mercy. There are words in sacred scripture which show how rich it truly is. It is described as a deep feeling of compassion, tenderness and kindness, moving people to respond to others needs.

I like very much the translation of the Benedictus that we use for our Daily Prayer of the Church, where mercy is described as, ‘The loving kindness of the heart of our God’. [Lk 1:78]

While Pope Francis promotes strongly the gift of mercy, it is not something new. Being of God, mercy has always existed.

In the Old Testament God was continually offering and showing this mercy to his people.

It was in His Son that God most of all showed us this wonderful mercy. As St Paul states ‘But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy’. Titus 3:4-5

Christmas, the greatest outreach of God to us, is first and foremost an outreach of God’s rich mercy.

As individuals and as a society we always need the mercy of God. It is there for the asking - as simple as that. In fact Pope Francis, in talking often as he does of God’s mercy, says how God is keener to share it with us than we are to ask it.

God also calls on us human beings to share that gift of mercy. Pope Francis constantly puts before the world and world leaders the plight of the poor, refugees, the unemployed, victims of war and terror.

While not neglecting the ‘big picture’, let us not lose sight of all the opportunities that are before us in our day to day living - in the home, at work, school and in the wider community. There are many such opportunities in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives.

Acts of mercy can only come from a merciful heart, and this can only come from the merciful heart of our God. Over this Christmastide it would be good and it would be important to contemplate the face of the Infant Jesus and the heart of this Infant God. Pope Francis points us in this direction by beginning his letter for the Year of Mercy with the words, ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy’.

Spending time with Jesus in prayer, will not stop there. Action will follow. St Therese of Lisieux, by her actions and writing, points this out. At one stage she had a sense that when she was kind to people it was Jesus who was doing this in her. As a result she came to realise that the more she loved Jesus the more he would work in her.

May our hearts this Christmas be filled more and more with the mercy of God shown to us in Jesus.