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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: March 21, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Monday, March 21, 2016. Priests from across the Diocese of Little Rock concelebrated this Mass.
"Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of
Today we have gathered for our annual
In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus gives us his mission statement and we see that it is a mission of mercy. He'll bring up doctrine on other occasions, but unlike the religious authorities of his day, he doesn't have a rigid, black and white view of the world that condemned people who didn't measure up — as if they were somehow unworthy of the love of the Father who created them as they are.
According to Pope Francis, mercy is at the heart of our faith. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. I would add that to embrace this truth, we have to have the humility to reverence the presence of the sacred in the imperfect situations that cry out for mercy in our world today.
He had what I call ambiguity tolerance, for instance, in dealing with the much married Samaritan woman because the human condition is ultimately a mystery far more complex than the theological categories available to us. And today's person struggling with same-sex attraction. Or whatever. Notice that while clarity of doctrine is important when that can be achieved, doctrine is not at the heart of our faith.
According to Pope Francis, mercy is at the heart of our faith. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. I would add that to embrace this truth, we have to have the humility to reverence the presence of the sacred in the imperfect situations that cry out for mercy in our world today. And that includes the humility to bring our own wounds to the Lord to receive his mercy and healing ourselves.
If we priests are going to be effective sacramental agents of God's mercy today, we need to make Jesus' mission statement our own. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us ever since the day of our ordination — indeed, ever since the day of our confirmation. He has anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor — and there are many kinds of poverty, among the rich as well as the poor.
He has sent us to proclaim liberty to captives — some of you are engaged in prison ministry and we all have people who lack inner freedom. And recovery of sight to the blind — admonishing the sinner, especially those who are stumbling blindly down a path leading to destruction. To let the oppressed go free — helping people get out of abusive situations.
To proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord — us serving as the voice of the voiceless in today's world. When Jesus finished quoting Isaiah, he said "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." I believe that Jesus' expectation is that since every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, this mission of mercy should be fulfilled in the lives of every single person here today. And all the more so by our priests, since every priest is an "alter Christus," ("another Christ.")
Earlier this year, Pope Francis published a beautiful little book for the holy year titled: "The Name of God is Mercy," the last chapter of which consists of three short pages regarding what the believer should do during this holy Year of Mercy, and the answer is twofold:
1.) We should open our hearts to the mercy of God, especially by going to confession.
2.) We should then undertake the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to be agents of God's mercy for others. Pope Francis mentions specifically care for the unemployed, the homeless, the immigrants who land on our shores and the elderly who are alone and abandoned.
He writes: "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith." And in line with this message of Pope Francis, I send you forth from this Chrism Mass to be agents of God's mercy in our world today.