On 28th November, Marist Laity Australia held its November Reflection day, leading us into the season of Advent. Fr Ray Chapman, a Marist priest who has given MLA such wonderful support over many years, was asked to facilitate this day. Fr Ray will be finishing his time as Parish Priest of St Patrick’s Church Hill at the end of this year. Our hopes were answered when he graciously agreed to give us this parting gift.
Ray chose as the theme, Mercy begins with ME, in step with the Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Some 50 people turned up, many of whom were wanting to tap into Ray’s wisdom before he leaves for France.
We were NOT disappointed!!
Ray began with Pope Francis’ words on this Holy Year of Mercy: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s Mercy.
In small groups, we were invited to share our understanding and experience of Mercy and then, expand out to where, in the world today, Mercy is most needed.
Ray gave us great input, teaching us about Divine Mercy in the Hebrew Scriptures, looking at Isaiah and Hosea.
“The biblical concept of mercy includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive.”
In the gospels, we realise that “everything in Jesus speaks of mercy… he himself IS mercy.”
Mercy is part of God’s nature. God will never forget or abandon us!
Ray gently led us from our heads to our hearts, where Mercy is found; from the surface to the depths, where Mercy abides; from theory to living reality, where Mercy is enacted! He spoke with knowledge, authority and passion.
“Mercy must be freely given: therefore, I need to be free to give.”
With single-pointed focus and drive, Ray led us to a place of freedom.
We then moved to a key Marist characteristic : “Instruments of Divine Mercy”.
Jean-Claude Colin SM always saw Mary as the Mother of Mercy.
'When Colin asks Marists to be ‘Instruments of Divine Mercy’, he is asking them to portray the feminine features of God and to help build a church which is not perceived in terms of power, planning, control, administration and competitiveness, but rather in terms of community, compassion, simplicity, mercy and fellowship.”
We then moved again into small groups to reflect on how we can be obstacles to Divine Mercy – to myself, others and the world. And then, to discern what I can do, this year, to enter into the spirit of Mercy. Ray summed up some of Pope Francis’ practical suggestions in this Year of Mercy:
“The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies. At times, how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge, are necessary conditions to living joyfully.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9)
The day ended as powerfully as it had begun. We all moved from our places through the Door of Mercy leading to our Eucharist.
Today, let us bring to our Eucharist a deeper understanding of how it makes present to us the compassionate and merciful heart of the Father so that we can become “merciful like the Father.”