By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ministers of Mercy

Back from the Holy Land Land pilgrimage, I met with two groups of faithful people deeply involved in the ministry of mercy. It was a fitting segue to the pilgrimage, where day after day we were reminded of all that Jesus did to show himself to be the face of the merciful Father. He brought mercy to the world. We who receive and live by it are to show the same mercy to others. This happens in many ways, of course, and two of them were highlighted for me over the weekend.

On Saturday I dropped in on a special forum hosted by our Office for Life and Family that brought together from our parishes people involved in the ministry of marriage preparation. This is clearly a ministry of mercy. Many of the couples who come to the Church today seeking marriage are unfamiliar with the full depth of the Church's teaching on this wonderful sacrament. Immersed in a variety of cultural messages that convey an understanding of marriage quite other than that of the Church, and often having wounded family backgrounds, they come needing a word of direction, clarity and hope. Sometimes they are not even aware of that need. The doctrine of the Church regarding marriage is a great treasure that we willingly and joyfully impart. When fully embraced it bears fruit not only in the lives of the couple and their children but also in society. It is a wonderful act of mercy to speak the truth about marriage and to invite others to enter this mystery with full confidence in the presence and assistance of the Lord Jesus.

Sunday gave me the opportunity to celebrate mass and then have dinner with volunteers at one of the city's hospitals. "I was sick and you visited me." Ministry to and with anyone suffering from illness is one of the classic corporal works of mercy. Gospel meets life in a beautiful way whenever the consolation and healing of Christ is brought to the sick. This requires many people to give of their time and presence in effective partnership with official chaplains. The folks I spent time with on Sunday have been dedicated to this ministry for quite some time and serve well as agents of mercy. I, together with the whole Archdiocese, am grateful for their devotion to the care of the ill.

This week, on December 8th, the Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis begins. As I mentioned recently in my Pastoral Letter, these months that lie before us are a grace-filled occasion to receive anew the deep inner healing that God's forgiveness brings. Impelled by this transformative love of God to show mercy to others, we can also rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The examples cited above remind us that mercy is not new to the Church. She has always lived from it and sought to bring it to others! What is new is a fresh opportunity to enter its depths and from it draw new life. Let's commit together to participate fully in this beautiful season of grace.