Willing Your Way to Mercy
Willing Your Way to Mercy
“For judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:13
By now, Catholics around the world are becoming more and more familiar with Pope Francis’ approach to winning the world to the Faith – through ordinary yet extravagant acts of mercy. In fact, our Holy Father has declared this to be the ‘Year of Mercy’ for the universal Church.
But why? Why, in a time of great evil throughout the world, has the Church called us to lift high the mantle of mercy? It could have been the ‘Year of Truth’ or the ‘Year of Repentance’, but in Her wisdom, the Church is calling for mercy.
I’m convinced the reason is because the single greatest stumbling block to our spiritual growth is our unwillingness to believe that God’s mercy is available to us. Somehow, perhaps through our pride, it is easier for us to believe God’s mercy is available for anyone, even everyone, but ourselves.
If you are someone who struggles to receive mercy, you’ve got company. It was our first Pontiff, St. Peter himself, who stubbornly refused our Lord Jesus’ initiation of servant leadership when he boldly proclaimed in John 13:8, “No, you shall never wash my feet!” To which our Lord responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”
We are reminded in Matthew’s gospel of Jesus’ lament at this unwillingness when he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!”
If we’re honest, it is much easier and often preferred to give rather than receive, to serve rather than be served. With serving comes the joy and satisfaction of doing good and all the affirmations that come along with it. But receiving requires vulnerability. Receiving requires an admission of need for cleansing, for healing, for help. If you’ve ever had your feet washed by another, you’ll know this to be true.
As fully-committed disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called first to receive before we can give. If you have the desire to be a servant, that’s great! But I think our Lord’s lesson here is that all of your service and all of your giving must flow out of what you have first received. As John, the beloved disciple has written, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:18).
So where is the good news in all of this?
It’s found in realizing the question isn’t whether or not God is willing to heal and cleanse and forgive, but whether or not you are willing or unwilling to receive it. Think of the difference between St. Peter and Judas. Both men betrayed Jesus, but one was willing to receive God’s mercy.
So the next time you begin to buy into the condemnation of others or even your own heart (1 John 3:20), remember that you can choose to entrust your soul to God, who is rich in mercy and whose love is first patient and kind.
If you want to learn more about the mercy of God, I want to invite you to join us in Aspen, Colorado from May 13-15, 2016 for an unforgettable weekend in the beauty of Aspen. The event, ‘Encountering Mercy – The Challenge and Invitation of Pope Francis’ presented by Aspen Catholic will feature dynamic speakers Dr. Jonathan Reyes, Dr. Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke, and all meals will be catered. You can find out all the details and information here: www.aspencatholic.org
Fr. John Hilton
Pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church
I’ve been a Catholic priest for 34 years, come from a family of nine children and love this life to which God has called me! For the past five years, I’ve served as pastor of Saint Mary Parish, founded by silver miners and adventurers in 1882 in the heart of what is now the resort community of Aspen, Colorado.
Celebrating the Holy Mass and teaching the Catholic Faith to others are some of my greatest joys. The highlight of my day is the morning Mass in which my parishioners and I encounter Jesus Christ made visible in His precious Body and Blood. In this powerful encounter, Jesus is revealed to us as the face of the Father, powerfully active in our lives.
Another passion of mine is long-distance road cycling. On June 2, 2015 I began a 3,600 mile solo journey across the United States and Canada by dipping the rear wheel of my bike in the Pacific Ocean at Anacortes, Washington. Eight weeks later this remarkable journey came to an end when I dipped the front wheel in the Atlantic at Seal Harbor, Maine.
In addition to the adventure, I rode in order to spread awareness of the great things God is doing at Saint Mary’s. We’re restoring our historic church and expanding our facilities. We’re teaming up with religious orders, teachers and institutes across the United States to provide outstanding spiritual, theological and leadership formation for you, our parishioners and visitors. I invite you to join us and hope to see you in Aspen!
Photograph courtesy of Father John Hilton.
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