In Sunday's Gospel passage we heard Jesus speak of his sheep, his followers, as those who listen to his voice. Where do we hear that voice? Jesus speaks to us, we know, in Sacred Scripture and through the teachings of His Church. We need also to remember that he speaks to us through the cries of the poor and suffering.
Many are the cries coming to us now from the people of Nepal. I'm hearing reports of more than 4000 dead from the recent earthquake, with the number expected to rise. And how many more are homeless!!!??? Let's not forget them. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development of Peace is now receiving donations for emergency relief, which will be channeled to those in need through the Church's Caritas Internationalis network. You may help via their website: www.devp.org.
You will likely know by now that Pope Francis has declared a special Jubilee Year of Mercy. It will begin December 8th of this year and conclude November 20, 2016. He recently presented the Bull of Indiction for this special year. This is a document that gives an overview of the principal themes and initiatives for the year, together with desired spiritual outcomes. Among the latter, the Holy Father makes clear that he hopes all Christians will learn to adopt mercy as their lifestyle. A lifestyle of mercy! Think of that. What would it be like if our lives were marked not by aggression but by mercy; not by bitterness, but by mercy; not by selfishness, but by mercy? This would represent a beautiful and much-to-be-desired revolution in our relationships with one another, both locally and globally.
Mercy is something active. It is not a vague feeling of pity that we hold temporarily in our hearts while we continue living the way we have always lived. Mercy means taking the needs of the poor and suffering, such that we actually go out to them to offer assistance and seek to change their lot. Mercy moves us out of ourselves and towards the others. We see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus how God is merciful toward us, and we hear from Jesus that we are to be merciful to one another.
So, let's be attentive to the cries of the suffering in Nepal. Neither may we forget the suffering elsewhere in the world, such as the Christians persecuted and killed in various parts of the world just because they are Christian; the victims of aggression in Ukraine; the migrants drowned in the Mediterranean; the millions of refugees fleeing war and terror, and so on. We can reach out to them in mercy when we give support to the work of agencies dedicated to bring help, such as Development and Peace, Aid to the Church in Need and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Mercy must characterize our familial relationships, too. In fact, the home must be the primary place of mercy. Too often do we hear of violence in the homes, or of the inability of family members to love and forgive one another.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not cease speaking to us. His voice reaches us through the cries of the poor. Are we listening and responding?