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LENTEN NOVENA – SERMON 3

DISCIPLES OF MERCY

Fr Gerard McCabe, CSsR

God of Mercy and Compassion

The Father
Jesus Mercy

Mercy Made Flesh
Our Response To become disciples of Mercy

The image of dropping a pebble in a still pond.
How it ripples outwards, onwards and onwards.
This is how mercy works in our lives. We first experience the grace of the mercy of God in our fragile and weak human lives.
This mercy then ripples outwards, primarily to our family members and those we love.
And then widens out to reflect the mercy of God in our parish life.

MERCY IN OURSELVES
We know all too well our own human weakness. Our fragility and our woundedness and our sin.
And yet, beyond all that, we breathe and live in the unfailing Mercy of God.

I have called you by your name. You are mine.
I have loved you with an everlasting love.

The first challenge to us is to believe this, to believe this with all our hearts.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
To acknowledge our failures and weakness, but to place all of it in the hands of God who loves us beyond all measure.
To trust that nothing of our past or our present puts us beyond the mercy of God. To even rejoice in our weakness because it makes us recognise our dependence on the God who loves us beyond all words.
We can only give what we have first received. So, unless we believe in God’s personal mercy for us then we will have no mercy to offer others.

MERCY IN FAMILY LIFE
Our primary way to God is through the joys and sorrows of family life.
This is also the primary place where we are called to express in love the mercy of God.
To whom much has been given, much will be expected.
So it is in family life that we should first recognise the face of the mercy of God in the world.
We all hurt those that we love the most. None of us can hold our head high and claim that we are without fault in our closest relationships in family life.
Yet so often our families are more like war zones than places of mercy.
We judge and we blame, we take sides, and we punish one another by our words, or by our silences, by our actions or by our failures to act.
We must realise that mercy is not a fuzzy warm emotion. It is a decision about a lifestyle. It is a decision to love those closest to us in the way that we are each loved by God.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32)

How easy it is for us to be Catholic families, where we all attend Church faithfully, yet where we live in a constant atmosphere of silence and lack of forgiveness.
How easy it is for us to cling to hurts of the past and to bring them up on every possible occasion, sometimes hurting generations of the very people we love most.
Yes, mercy is not easy. But it is also not simply an emotion. It brings with it a great cost. It is the cost of the Passion and the Cross. But if we make a decision for mercy then we believe in Christ that there will be also a Resurrection.

MERCY IN THE PARISH
I have always considered myself remarkably blessed in being asked to serve here as your parish priest. We truly do have a wonderful parish, and we have so much to give thanks for. We have huge numbers attending Mass each day and each Sunday, we have a wonderful spirit of prayer and devotion. We also have so many people who are committed to serving the parish in so many ways. For all of this we must continue to give thanks.
But in this Year of Mercy, we must also recognise that our parish is not perfect. We are called to be even more than we already are.
Are we truly as loving to one another as we should be? Are we actively trying to serve one another or simply contented with our own private spirituality?
The true test of the spirituality of a parish is just the same as that of a family. Do we reflect the mercy of God to one another?

Those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have received from Him is this: those who love God must love theirs brothers and sisters too ( 1 John 2:10-12)

It is so easy for us to love God and to worship in the same Church, and yet to remain divided. We break into groups, we gossip about others, we pass judgement where we have no right to even intrude.
It is in the light of this reality of good parishes that Pope Francis made his plea to good parishes, and to good Catholics who believe in God and strive to serve Him.

Let our parishes be parishes of Mercy. Let them be islands of Mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.

Let this be our spiritual challenge, as a parish for this Year of Mercy. To let go of petty squabbles and arguments. To let go of hasty judgment on others.
But to make Holy Redeemer an island of Mercy in a world that is falling apart through indifference to the suffering and the needs of others.

The very name of our parish is a great privilege, and an indication of our personal vocation, and parish vocation. To be witnesses to the God of mercy made visible in Jesus Our Lord, Our Most Holy Redeemer.

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