What is Mercy?
We tend to define mercy as compassion or sympathy, but mercy has a much deeper meaning. It is more than just a feeling toward someone. Being merciful is entering into the misery of another. It is to feel the other’s pain, it is to see through the other’s eyes, to root yourself in the other’s heart and thoughts. We can be merciful because God is Mercy. "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made." (Psalm 144 (145) 8 and 9) The more we understand how God himself has been merciful to us, the more we will become merciful.
There are many examples of God's mercy in the Old Testament: the conversion of the people of Nineveh, the experience of Noah's ark, Exodus, Job...and in the New Testament, Jesus continuously spreads His mercy to those around him. The early Christians followed his example. Entire generations have since walked in their steps and even today the Church's social doctrine encourages us to show mercy to our brothers and sisters of all races.
Why a Year of Mercy?
Because Pope Francis wants to mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. This Council was a turning point in the life of the Church. The Council Fathers realized that it was necessary to speak to the world at that time of God in a more understandable way. The protective walls that stifled the Church were brought down. Dialogue with our Christian brothers was opened. Interfaith relationships were begun. The time had come to proclaim the Good News in a new way. The Church sought to be a visible sign of the Father's love in the world. The Church, once again, became conscious that she must lead men and women to the source of Mercy of which she is both the recipient and the giver.
Our contemporary world needs to hear that each and every person is loved by the Father despite any failings and that no sin, no matter how serious, will deprive one of that love.
What is the the Divine Mercy?
Devotion to the Divine Mercy is based on the diaries of Saint Faustina Kowalska to whom Christ appeared on a number of occasions. Her writings allow for a much deeper understanding of God’s love and mercy. We are encouraged to pray daily that God's Divine Mercy enter our lives and that Jesus provide us everything we need to become instruments of mercy for others.
We celebrate the feast of St. Faustina on October 5th and the Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday.
How can I personally live out a Year of Mercy?
An extraordinary Jubilee year, such as the one we are about to embark upon, is in many ways part of our pilgrimage here on earth. It is an opportunity to further our personal conversion such that we grow more and more in the image and likeness of God. We can do this by performing corporal works of mercy.
We can also perform spiritual works of mercy.
The above are recommendations that Jesus himself has asked of us.
It is not necessary to perform extraordinary works. Some days it can be as simple as allowing someone to go ahead of us in line, to be more patient with a child, to offer help to a neighbor, a smile, or a hello to a passerby. Small acts of kindness that can cheer and even change someone's life.
We can also live this year by accepting that others may act towards us with mercy. We must learn to give but we must also learn to receive. When we do, we allow another to be the instrument through which God reaches out to us in our misery, comforts us, and heals us.