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Willing Your Way to Mercy

May 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Fr. John Hilton, 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:


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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About Fr. John Hilton

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 four 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. I’ve bicycled across the United States to spread the word that this beautiful mountain town, known for its skiing, mountaineering, and cultural events, is rapidly becoming a powerful place to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ through dynamically orthodox conferences and seminars in service of the New Evangelization. We hope to see you in Aspen!

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  • osu84

    Very good points Father. So true. It is our pride that resists receiving mercy from God and from others. We see ourselves as being merciful. All well and good but this sort of “mercy” may in some cases mask the sin of pride.

  • Philip George Regan

    Great article and listen to what Saint Therese of the Child Jesus had to say on this topic ” How little is know of the great and merciful Love of the Heart of Jesus .The fact is that to enjoy this treasure we must be humble and recognise our nothingness – and that is what many people will not do”.

  • Judy Silhan

    Fr. John, what a pleasure it is to see a reflection from you again. I really miss the daily posts, including beautiful videos, from your pedaling priest series. I so wish that I could attend your Encountering Mercy event, there in Aspen; but I am afraid circumstances will not allow it. Someday, though, I do intend to see you and your beautiful parish.

    Your thoughts on Mercy and it being a stumbling block to our spiritual growth, because of our unwillingness to believe that God’s mercy is available to us, was one of the topics with my Spiritual Director this morning. It seems that I fail repeatedly in my efforts to keep my commitments to my spiritual life, and I felt that God was very disappointed in me, rather than reflecting on His Mercy, Now, I see your reflection on this very subject. Thank you so much. God is good, indeed.

  • Patricia

    Mercy is more than forgiveness, it is healing. Every soul needs to be healed which can only occur if we are “operated upon” by the Divine Physican. The influence of sin on our souls can come from three sources- original sin, the effects of the sins of others on our soul, and our own sins that we have committed. God’s Mercy is greater than any sin we may have committed and can heal the scars and hurts in our souls caused by the sins of others towards us. Of course, Jesus Himself heals our sins by His Death and Resurrection and as we enter into Baptism, our souls are fully restored to the intended original state with nothing left to efface.

    “Oh, how happy I am to see myself imperfect and to have such need of God’s mercy at the moment of my death. ” – St. Therese

    If “the greatest Saint of Modern Times ” and a Doctor of the Church needs the Mercy of God, even at the end of her time on earth, so do we!

    In this Year of Mercy, let each submit their soul to God and ask to be healed and admit how much we are in need of God’s Mercy.

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