Year of Mercy: Surprise!

(25)The Pope draws his writing to a close with a call for us to open ourselves to the God who surprises us.  The God who never tires of showering us with mercy, has ways and means for doing this that we cannot ask or imagine.

But the crucial factors are that we not try to define or control what those surprises are, or who will receive them–and–that we offer ourselves as instruments through whom those surprises can flow out to others.  In many respects, the Pope is saying what others have said, “Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.”  The Pope is echoing the prayer of the one whose name he took for his pontificate: “Lord, make an instrument of your peace.”

The manifestation of this mercy, as the Pope notes, begins in the deep contemplation of Christ, the incarnation of mercy.  And then, as a result of that contemplation, we accept Christ’s commission to be missionaries of mercy in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and houses of worship.

This is no easy task, and it is made even more difficult by our cultural predispositions toward all sorts of hardness of heart, complete with the legalisms that justify our withholding mercy to any whom we deem as failing to be “worthy” of it.  But this is not the way of God.  And so, Pope Francis ends his writing praying that (despite the odds and the temptations to quit) we will never tire in showing mercy to one and to all.

Yes, Lord–may it be so!

[Note: the numbers at the beginning of each meditation correspond to the section of the Pope’s document on which it is based]

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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