REFLECTION: Mercy and compassion PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 December 2014 11:42



With Pope Francis pushing what he calls as the Church of mercy and compassion, we all have to do some adjustments in our attitudes and thinking, because with that call some kind of paradigm shift is actually being presented to us for the life of the Church.

To be sure, this papal thrust is not meant to undo what the previous pontificates and the several councils have accomplished. We have to be clear about this, and set aside fears the Pope is taking the Church in the wrong direction. It simply is a step further, Spirit-inspired, in the path the Church has to take to pursue its mission.

It’s also a thrust that is more attuned to the temper of the times, when a lot of developments are happening, giving us both good and not-so-good things. More than just a confusion in doctrine, there is a big haemorrhaging in the Church with more and more people feeling if not being alienated from it.

This thrust of Pope Francis’ pontificate is meant to tackle this problem in the Church. We cannot anymore be casual, passive and cavalier toward those who are getting farther away from the Church. We have to reach out to them as actively and as persistently as possible.

This means that even as we tighten our grip of what is essentially right and wrong with respect to faith and morals, we should also try to loosen as much as possible our ways of dealing with everybody so as to be in friendly and talking terms with everyone.

All this is meant to reflect the ways of God himself who is both very strict and very lenient, very demanding and very patient and merciful.

The mercy and compassion being asked of us is not so much directed to those in some material need or misery as to those who are in grave spiritual and moral predicaments. In the prayer for the preparation of the papal visit to our country, these persons are referred to as “the weak and the lost.”

The mercy and compassion presented to us is that aspect of the redemptive life and work of Christ who fraternized with sinners, who taught us to love our enemies, who spoke of the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and who bore all the sins of men by offering his life on the cross.

They all tell us that it is not enough to have good intentions only towards others, nor to do some acts of charity which is more of philanthropy than anything else, a kind of “noblesse-oblige” mindset.

The mercy and compassion asked of us is that very attitude of the poor widow who out of what she had to live on gave her two mites in contrast to the rich man who gave quite a bit but out of his abundance.

This papal approach is asking us to go beyond being doctrinally correct, without of course disparaging in any way the need for doctrinal orthodoxy. It is asking us to be very pastoral and heroically apostolic, done in a personal way of friendship and confidence more than as an official duty.

It is asking us to be open and tolerant with everybody if only to keep the friendship going. We have to check if there’s anything in our beliefs and practices that we hold in absolute and restrictive manner when they can allow for other acceptable ways.

And even in the case where one is doctrinally correct and the other wrong, we should refrain from raising walls between them but rather should trigger the dynamics of the charity of mercy and compassion.

The extreme of delicacy in our dealings should be lived.

The discussion of the doctrine can wait if the person involved is not yet ready to accept what is right and wrong in doctrinal matters. We have to remember that we are not concerned so much about who is right and who is wrong as about loving everybody.

Our differences should not dull our affection with one another. Rather, they should enhance it, since only in this atmosphere can doctrinal differences be settled properly.

However, catechesis in a general way should continue unabatedly, doing it with gift of gab, adapting it to the concrete conditions of the listeners. As St. Paul said, we have to “preach the word in season, out of season.” (2Titus 4,2) He also said that, yes, we can “reprove, entreat, rebuke” but “in all patience and doctrine.”

The call for a Church of mercy and compassion has to be heeded!