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Another look into mercy

HONG KONG (SE): In order to deepen the understanding of what the Year of Mercy is about, the Filipino Chaplaincy of Hong Kong organised an afternoon on the Reflection of the Year of Mercy, at Sing Yin Secondary School in Clearwater Bay Road, Kowloon, on August 21.

The guest speaker of the day was Father Antonio Pernia, who happened to be in Hong Kong to give a retreat for the Divine Word priests the previous week. Father Pernia is the former superior general of the Society of the Divine Word and presently working as dean of the Divine Word Institute for Mission Studies.

Although sick that day and just out from the hospital, Father Pernia came and pushed through with his talk to the delight of everyone present.

He kicked off his talk by mentioning that for the first time in history, Pope Francis encouraged the opening holy doors in every cathedrals around the world to enable those who cannot afford to go for a pilgrimage to Rome to just go to their cathedral church to enter the Holy Door. This is one way of receiving the Jubilee Year indulgence.

“Crossing the Holy Door is making a passage from one’s old self to the new self,” Father Pernia said. He continued by saying that the Holy Door symbolises conversion, as we move from outside to inside.

The Holy Door is a symbol of internal renewal with desire (conversion). To cross the Holy Door is to gain a plenary indulgence. We have plenary indulgences because when we sin, there are also consequences of sin. Indulgence removes the consequences of sin.

Father Pernia mentioned several ways of gaining a plenary indulgence during the Jubilee Year: performing one or more of the corporal works of mercy—feeding the hungry; giving drink to the thirsty; clothing the naked; welcoming strangers; healing the sick; visiting the imprisoned; burying the dead.

 Or they can perform one or more of the spiritual works of mercy: counsel the doubtful; instruct the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted; forgive offenses; bear patiently who do us ill; pray for the living and dead.

Father Pernia asked participants which one among the spiritual works of mercy is the easiest. Some answered praying for the living and dead, while forgiving and bearing hardships patiently is difficult.

For healthy active people, they can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, go to confession, attend the Mass, make a profession of faith or pray for the Holy Father and his intentions.

The sick and elderly can offer their sickness and suffering in union with the suffering of our Lord. People in prison can pray in the chapel in prison or while crossing the threshold of cells.

Father Pernia explained that mercy is central to our faith as Christians. The core of Christianity is mercy, as God is a god of mercy. Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy, while the Church is a community of mercy.

Father Pernia said that mercy is visceral, with a kind of love which means to turn inside out.

That is to say, mercy can melt our hearts and direct us to do things. “Mercy is restorative love and it perfects justice,” he said, adding that while people receive mercy from God, they also need to extend the same mercy to others.

On the sacrament of reconciliation, he said that it enables people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For the penitent, it is a source of true interior peace.

He quoted Pope Francis as saying that confession is not a dry cleaner of sins, but a sin is a wound that needs to be healed, as the sinner had a shattered heart.

He also reminded priests or confessors that the confessional is not a torture chamber.

The day finished with a Mass celebrated by Father Pernia and the chaplain to Filipinos, Father Jay Flandez.