Nestled right in the middle of today’s Gospel reading is perhaps one of the most important of all the beatitudes, and aside from Jesus’ “New Commandment” to love God and to love one another; it is possibly one of the most profound statements in all of the New Testament.
Mercy. If everyone showed a greater mercy towards one another, this world would be a much better place. This Church would be a better Church. But we don’t. Often, rather than showing mercy, we show judgement and condemnation. Yet, we ourselves expect mercy in return. We want to condemn the sinner on our way to sainthood. We want to be one of those in the reading from Revelations today, clothed in white praising God forever in Heaven, yet we’re skipping the instruction manual laid out before us in the second reading from the First Letter of John today, and then of course in Jesus’ sermon in the Gospel.
We do not have an automatic ticket to sainthood. God wants us all in Heaven and has planned our lives so we can make it to Heaven and live eternally with Him as a saint in Heaven, but this is not a ticket that never expires. If we don’t get on the right track, and the right train, and we keep making the same mistakes while not trying to live by those Beatitudes from today’s Gospel, at some point in our lives, that ticket will eventually expire, and we will miss that train. It’s about mercy.
We must seek God’s mercy, asking forgiveness for our sins and asking for the grace to be merciful towards others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not only where we turn to God for His mercy in forgiving our sins, but we also go to Confession because we want His protection. We want God’s grace to protect us from the temptations that will come our way, the grace to turn away from them and not give in. We turn to Confession for the grace to enhance our spiritual relationship with Christ and increase our prayer life with Him and keep our life in the right perspective. We turn to Confession for God’s grace to help us be more merciful to others who cross our path in life, and cross us. And it’s through this grace of mercy and being merciful to others, that we will receive God’s eternal mercy, and be one of those saints in Heaven that we celebrate on this day, this All Saints Day.
But we often forget the merciful part of the equation. I look no further than the latest Synod on the Family and its fallout. The biggest, most publicized topic of discussion was – How do we handle those who are divorced and remarried, and how do we handle those with same-sex attraction. Or in the words of many in our Church today – How do we handle those people? As if they are some sort of outcast.
Church doctrine did not change in the Synod, and it’s not going to change. I just can’t see that ever happening. And it shouldn’t change. The Catholic doctrine is perfect, because it is the truth revealed from God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
But people are not perfect. Nor are priests, or Bishops, or the Pope. We, as people, have a way of ruining things. And so in times like these, when I hear fellow Catholics referring to how the Church should be treating those people, it saddens me. Because this talk is not merciful. It automatically creates a divide. Sure, maybe many of us are not divorced and remarried, or have same-sex attraction, but we suffer from countless other spiritual ailments that separate us from the love of God. Lust and pornography. Alcohol and drug addiction. Anger and resentment. Premarital sex. Contraception and abortion. Lying, cheating and stealing. Greed. Coveting of material possessions. Envy. Malice. Judgement and condemnation. The list goes on and on. What are we to do with all of these people? These people are us.
And so when we refer to those people, two questions come to mind – who gives anyone the right to judge because what makes any one of us any better? And, when we do see a problem, what are we doing about it? Are we just complaining, or are we trying to help?
Are we recognizing the problem, but more importantly are we showing mercy and love towards them? Rather than gossiping about who is divorced or is guilty of a particular sin, are we striving to comfort them and help them through anything they are dealing with? Are we being Christ-like? Because correct me if I am wrong, but we all expect mercy in return, right?
Those people, these people, them. Us. We are all in this together, therefore we need to help each other, and not condemn and treat people as outcasts. We can’t complain about how great the world used to be and how horrible it is now, and yet do nothing about it. We all can do something, and every single one of us can be merciful.
Listen… This is a complex world. It is gray, while our Faith is black and white. But that’s the great thing. Our Faith is black and white. We always have it there as a constant in an ever changing world, a pillar that keeps us on track, that helps us strive to be better, to better others, and at times, helps us to discern how to get back on track.
Our Church is our guide to sainthood. But if you’re reading this, you’re not there yet. None of us are, and so we shouldn’t portray that we are saints. And so while there are truths in the Church, such as who is worthy to receive Communion or the true sacredness of Marriage, there is also the truth of God’s mercy. He will show us mercy if we show mercy to others.
We all have a lot to do spiritually – both internally in our souls and externally with other people. But our faith gives us a beacon of light to shoot for. Jesus gives us the Sacraments and the Beatitudes to help us see how we can get better, and be more loving and merciful. And we mustn’t overlook the Sacrament of Confession, because receiving Gods mercy and forgiveness for our sins is only part of the equation. We must utilize the gift of this Sacrament to help us bring order to our lives and grow spiritually. Because Confession is not only a time when we are fixing ourselves, but it is also preventative maintenance.
And through His mercy, he gives us the grace we need to be merciful to others. Sometimes we make bad decisions. Sometimes we are a product of bad fortune. Sometimes our temptations get the best of us. There are rules to our faith that give us something to shoot for and tell us how we need to live. But no one should be marginalized and excluded.
We as a Church and as a Faith, must be able to find a way to be more welcoming and be more merciful while upholding Christ’s truth and the truth of the Church. We have got to find a way to stop dwelling on the way things used to be, and look to how we can move forward and increase the love of the Church, not in some distant land, but right here in our homes, and our families, in our family of friends, our parish family, our neighbors and society. Starting with our young, but ending with all of us. We have got to find it in our hearts how to show mercy to all, and how to be welcoming, and we have got to discern in our very soul how we can help counsel others who may be struggling with complex problems in this complex world.
Jesus knows this is how the world is. He knows life is complex. He’s experienced it. But He’s given us a very simple way to navigate through it. His grace and His mercy. We as Catholics may not believe in everything the Church stands for because it conflicts with our own decisions and desires, and we may not agree with the actions of others that conflict with the truth and teachings of the Church. But a wise priest, who I know is now one of those saints in Heaven, once said, “we don’t have to have it all figured out at once. We just have to trust in God’s grace throughout, and trust in the process and God will help us figure it out.”
If we do, that scene in Revelations will be revealed to us, as will God’s ultimate plan for us, and he will truly show us mercy. But we must be merciful in return.