St. Paul on the feast of the Ascension tells us: “To live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…” (Eph. 4:1-13). Today, I’d like to speak about two key themes of mercy and empowerment.
Jesus has touched us and healed so many souls. He is the “human face of God” among us. He is the “light of the world.” At Easter we are bathed in the “light of Christ,” and our Easter candle stands here to mark this very light among us. He both illuminates our way and truth, but also provide warmth, shelter and healing to all, most especially those in need.
One of Pope Francis’s favorite words and key theme for his papacy is the Latin word “misericordia.” Coming from two words: misereri meaning “to pity,” and “cor” referring to “the heart.” Here, the pope pays special attention to the idea that Christ speaks heart-to-heart” with the kindness that brings healing to troubled souls.
For Pope Francis, God is tenderness. When he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, at Christmas Midnight Mass, he would hold up the statue of the newborn Christ child, as to remind us that the “God of Tenderness” is like a newborn. But most of all, that we as Christians must practice the “medicine of mercy.” In his words, God has a heart for those who suffer, in other words “misericordia.” Thus, our mercy must break through those places of pain in the live of people.
Today, we ask your support for Catholic Charities here in the Monterey Diocese in order to meet the genuine needs of people who face challenges in their lives and the lives of their children.
- For those facing eviction from their homes.
- For those who need financial assistance to pay for food, shelter or payment of utility bills.
- For a father who could use help to remove gang tattoos, and move on to a more stable life with family and children,
- For those needing legal advice on matters of immigration and how to secure citizenship.
All these actions are works of mercy and our work as Christians who provide the light of Christ’s warmth and care. Please be generous to this collect today.
This brings me to a second theme, namely that of the empowerment of Christ’s disciples. Mark concludes his gospel with Christ words: “Go out into the whole world” and perform great signs in his name.
If Pope Francis is correct that mercy is the cornerstone of who we are, it’s mercy and forgiveness that provide us a “credible face” to the world. How else would people know of Christ as the very work of God in the world? Christ is the source of our empowerment as Christians, after all.
This past week, the Pew Center on Religion & Public Life had some sobering news about their polling and analysis of the mainline religions in the United States. They report that there is greater secularization and the loss of many of our young people to other religious and spiritual movements, and in many cases, no religion at all, the so-called Nones or unaffiliated.
Here are some the findings about our Church:
- Since 2007, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost 3 million members, and counts some 51 million Catholic adults nationwide.
- Nearly one-third of American adults (31.7%) say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, fully 41% no longer identify with Catholicism. That’s a staggering statistic.
- For every one person who converts to Catholicism, seven leave the Church or are among those who have passed away in a given year.
One can list any number of factors or reasons here, and I have about a dozen myself – but to my mind vibrancy, authenticity and, to use the pope’s word, credibility really count in demonstrating to one and all that the “medicine of mercy” is the work of Christ and our work.
Saint Paul in today second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that some are Apostles, others prophets, pastors and teachers. Today we have many more laywomen and laymen acting in these vital roles.
To paraphrase Paul’s words, we are ready to equip people for ministry for building up the body of Christ, to attain unity of faith and knowledge, and to mature – to the full stature of Christ.
Today is Ascension Day, and this is our work, whatever the diminished the numbers – together we do the healing work of Christ’s mercy.
Saint Anselm, over 1,000 years ago in Canterbury, wrote this prayer:
Jesus as our Mother you gather your people to you;
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride; tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds; in sickness you nurse us and feed us.
Lord in your mercy heal us; in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness.
For the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.