CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Where are we going from here?

I

 was among those who rejoiced when Pope Francis called the special Year of Mercy. Yes, mercy! A word, but most importantly an attitude. This year of mercy has indeed been a special one.

With activity after activity, prayer after prayer, talks and pilgrimages, it was celebrated in a wholesome and complete manner. 

The theme of this special jubilee was quite appealing and the creator of the logo for the Year of Mercy, depicting the Good Shepherd, wanted his creation to be a reminder that God never forgets his own.

He carries them upon his shoulders and at the same time invites us to do the same, for “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Our intentions and petitions were focussed mostly around the theme of mercy, praying that God will grant us a merciful heart, the kind that enables us to forgive others as he himself has forgiven us in Christ.

We prayed for our families and relatives, that the mercy of the Lord may dwell upon them; we extended our prayer also for those who, for one reason or another, could not celebrate this Year of Mercy with happy hearts.

Let me name for instance those Christians in war-infected zones, refugees and the displaced, chronically ill patients and those suffering from a wide variety of abuse.

We wanted, as we still do, God to bless them and to show them his mercy, so that they too may live a life that is contrary to the situations they are in now.

And we prayed for ourselves too. Now that the year of mercy is passed, is mercy going to pass as well? We all know the answer to this question must be no.

A true faith is what remains when activities have passed. During the activities, some of us somehow get involved in functions that others had planned for them and sometimes doing things without really meditating on the meaning of what is at hand.

But this attitude can have the consequence that things are easily forgotten once the activity is over, because it was something that we usually do, or a friend told me to do it.

However, the Church invites us always to “proclaim what we believe and to observe what we proclaim.” 

In this sense, we can observe what we proclaim only when we have time to stop for a while and see the meaning of the things we celebrate and learn from them. And what did we learn from this important jubilee of mercy?

First of all, we opened the doors of mercy. Locations were designated throughout Hong Kong to help people join in the important celebrations.

The activities were so important that they reminded us that whoever enters the door of mercy will walk towards the Lord’s mercy and find in Jesus true forgiveness.

Far from being just a symbol, it was also a reminder that whenever we chose to walk through the door of mercy (I choose to call it the door of hope as well), we were also invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to practice mercy in our daily lives.

Attending the opening of the door of mercy while keeping closed the doors of our hearts would be a contradiction. This is what it means to just attend an activity, but not learn from it.

Mercy is quite an exercise: difficult for some and easy to handle for the others. But no matter what, the Church deserves the credit for being a permanent reminder of true values.

And where are we going from here? We will always keep in mind that God’s door is always open to everyone who seeks him with a humble heart.

Secondly, we went on pilgrimages around Hong Kong and even abroad, looking for ways to improve our relationship with the Lord and to learn from different spots how mercy can be lived and enjoyed.

We also heard stories about how beautiful some pilgrimage spots are: the beauty of the church, its interior design or the meaning of one particular mosaic.

We also heard about how people in Rome, France, Israel or South Africa celebrated the year of mercy, adding some local flavour to the universal celebration of this great Church event.

Some of us went far, out of a special devotion for one particular saint, or to thank the Lord for a special favour obtained during or before the special Jubilee of Mercy.

Pilgrimages are important. They are indeed acts of faith. But I believe that we went that far to learn how to give joy to those living near us: our family members and our friends, and even those we may not like so much.

I am sure we shared interesting stories about our discoveries from those who went abroad.

But the pilgrimage into our own hearts will continue to be the best one, because it is from there that true love can be found even long after the Year of Mercy is gone.

It is there that the sense of mercy can blossom and become a living reality in our midst. Now that the year is over, where are we going from here? 

Keeping in mind what we have learned, let us continue to “put out in the deep” (Luke 5: 4) and never get tired of living our Christian ideals. This is what it means to be a missionary, especially today.

Thirdly, we attended talks and conferences, looking for ways to increase our knowledge of the mystery of faith. Competent speakers did their best to help us understand what was at stake: the mercy of God.

And almost all of them added the comment that they were inviting us to be living witnesses far beyond the limits of the Church, here to be understood as Church building.

Can we go back into our memory and remember what was our favourite talk and why? What moved our heart during that important moment of faith? Was it a word from the speaker? A question? Or a prayer before or after a talk?

A simple remembrance of these facts may play a major role in helping us move forward where some things seemed to block our way towards true happiness.

If for example, someone said that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting, but it helps understand that life ahead is bigger than being a prisoner of the past, would you choose to stay in the past or make a decision that will help you see the big picture?

As a matter of fact, those talks were not only a way of keeping ourselves busy.

They were important moments in creating the atmosphere that is needed to re-create ourselves and start afresh.

This is also what it means when the Church invites us to experience God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. This moment is meant to refresh us.

But what comes after confession is also important. Now that we have seen the end of the Year of Mercy, where are we going from here? To close mercy as well?

Instead, we will always take the way of mercy and remember at the same time the mercy of God and showing mercy towards others are two important elements that can be lived in tandem.

The list of things we did during the Year of Mercy can be long. We were full of initiative, both personally and collectively.

But let me ask this question, “What will happen if I suggest to some people to pray the Prayer of the Year of Mercy together long after the year had been closed?

Probably the answer would be that the year is over. Yes, it is important to move on, but the invitation to pray an outdated prayer is not a way to live in the past, but to rediscover its riches and ask God to help us in our quest for a more liveable mercy.

Now what will be next? The Church may continue to proclaim other years, perhaps of minorities, unity or of justice, even perhaps the Year of the Homily, to help us on our journey towards Jesus.

It surely will! But what comes next depends on how we live today. May we integrate into our lives what we have learned and seen today without stashing it somewhere inside a filing cabinet.

 

 • Father Dominique Mukonda CICM
Kowloon