Well, that’s exactly what just happened! Last month a very significant event quietly occurred in the United States. I say “quiet” because as amazing as this event was, there was hardly any media recognition about it. In October of 2015, Nobel Peace Laureates, religious leaders, global thinkers, and interfaith activists gathered in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World’s Religions (Congress of the Religions). The Parliament is the oldest (1893), the largest, and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faith and traditions. Traditionally, the Parliament occurs every five years. This year 10,000 people, 80 nations, and 50 different faiths came together to learn, dialogue, and pray with each other.
Photo by Leticia Bertin on Flickr
If ever there was an opportunity for us to celebrate and be grateful for God’s mercy and compassion and forgiveness, it’s now. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Since Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ending on November 20th of 2016, we’ve probably all been thinking about how we can weave the theme of mercy into our evangelization and catechesis. But before we get there, maybe there’s a preliminary step!
I think the first thing I need to keep in mind is to not create ways I can use the Jubilee Year of Mercy in my ministry. (That will come later.) I believe Pope Francis is calling me to show mercy myself. I have the audacity to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the fact that I am asking God to forgive me only to the degree I forgive others. No more, no less. It’s a scary thought. I am certain I’d rather be judged by God than by me. So perhaps the best way I can enter into the Year of Mercy is to become a person of mercy, to forgive, to offer mercy when I really want justice, and to have a more compassionate heart. What do you think?
With Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just a happy memory for us – what things will stick with us? For many, it was his vision of caring for our common home – his hope for the earth. I have to admit that I was so excited to hear Catholic social teaching talked about on the major networks, explained by news anchors, and discussed by panels of experts and television personalities. It was amazing actually. Even if people didn’t agree on things – they were talking. I really think that’s what an encyclical should do - get people talking, opening the channels for dialogue and making people pay a little more attention to issues.