Be Merciful, As Jesus Is

Today’s Gospel account is a story about a woman coming to faith in Jesus as the Christ.  It all began because, as always, God took the initiative through his Son, to engage the woman in conversation.  Once again we see how God works in extraordinary ways as Jesus never should have engaged a woman in conversation in public, and the second offense was that she was a Samaritan, a natural enemy of the Jewish people.

All of us are called to faith and part of our Lenten observance is to seriously reflect on where each one of us is at on that journey.  I would like to share with you this week some excerpts from an article that appeared in the September 18, 2008, edition of The Catholic Herald.  I often read this article as it helps me as I carry out my pastoral ministry among you.

As you read the following, keep in mind that Benedict XVI was pope.  The article states: “Recently, Pope Benedict XVI advised the Church to be more patient and understanding with young people as they come to the Church seeking the sacraments.  “We should not be harsh,” he said, “simply because Jesus himself would have been kind to them.”

Pope Benedict went on to say, “I used to be more strict about this, but the example of Christ led me to become more welcoming in cases in which, perhaps, there is not a mature and solid faith, but there is a glimmer, a desire of communion with the Church.”

While the report notes that his comment was made in reference to young people, perhaps we as a Church should bring the same attitude toward all those who are still on the journey of faith, each in his or her own way seeking to be the best believers they can be.

The author then writes, “Who or what determines whether someone’s faith is mature and solid, and at what point might that occur?  Furthermore, what then should be the marks of mature faith?  It seems that all of us are on a journey of ever deepening faith.  Who is the one who has arrived?”

The author then brings up the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, all of whom receive the full daily wage no matter how many hours they worked.  “This parable may well be less about what we do and more about what God does, which is about how God brings us to faith.”

“Is it not true that all of us come to faith at different times in our lives?  For some, God seems to stir in them from the very beginning, even in the womb, as it would seem.  Others find themselves brought to faith only after turbulent years in their teens and twenties.  And for some, faith only begins to make sense after they have lived the greater portion of their lives.”

“Whenever it is that any of us opens our life to the nudging throbs of God’s love, no one begrudges us that we should embrace God at such a point.  No one asks why we didn’t come to faith sooner, as if our recent discovery of faith is somehow cheapened by its late arrival.  Rather, there is only delight that finally someone who was lost, someone who was on a journey in and out of faith, has at last been found, has at last found his or her own way.”

Even though we concluded the “Year of Mercy” this past November, we still need to be doing what Pope Francis asks of us when he called the Jubilee Year, “Be merciful as the Father is merciful.”  Let us thank God for where we are at on our journey of faith, and let us be open to where others are at, planting seeds and inviting them to grow.  Let us call to mind frequently Pope Benedict’s wisdom, not to be harsh but kind like Jesus.  It is about what God does.

– Fr. Dennis, March 19, 2017