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One of my most favorite movies is Jesus of Nazareth. One scene that I will never forget occurs when Jesus is on his way to Matthew’s house.
Using logical reasons that are in line with God’s laws, the apostles are begging Jesus to change his mind and not enter this “sinner’s” house. Just before Jesus enters the home, he turns to James and says, “The heart of the Law is mercy.”
Pope Francis has dedicated this year as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Over and over again, he has asked us to reach out and help the needy. Of course, we all feel for those who are poor, sick, or marginalized. But we still face the question “What am I going to do about it?” The pope is asking us to hear the cry of the poor and do something about it.
At the same time, the Holy Father has asked us to try to overcome whatever tendencies we might have to judge and condemn people. He has asked us to have the same kind of mercy that Jesus had for Matthew. Was Matthew living a corrupt life? Probably. But that didn’t keep Jesus away. Did Jesus approve of the way Matthew was living? Probably not. But Jesus went to see him anyway.
Does Pope Francis approve of everything going on in the lives of the people he is reaching out to? No. But he is trying to open a door for them, just as Jesus opened a door for Matthew. May we imitate the pope and try our best to be welcoming and accepting toward everyone we meet. May we show them love simply because they are children of God who are loved by God just as much as we are. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept and approve of every aspect of their lives. But it does mean that we have to try to be as merciful toward them as our heavenly Father has been toward us (Luke 6:36).
Inner Healing. When someone hurts us or takes advantage of us, it can leave deep wounds in us that affect the way we think and act. It can make us less kind and less willing to forgive or show compassion. But Jesus wants to heal our inner wounds. He wants to set us free from the way they affect our behavior. As we are healed, we become more able to forgive and love—even to love the people who have hurt us.
If you have been deeply hurt, I urge you to read the article entitled “Healing & Mercy” on page 20. It describes a way of praying for healing that I learned many years ago. Since that time, I have prayed with hundreds of people in this way and have witnessed some very dramatic healings.
As we travel through this season during the Year of Mercy, may we all find ways to serve the needy. May we become a bit more welcoming to those we may not always agree with. Above all, may we be as merciful as our heavenly Father.