The Church begins a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis’ idea is that the whole Church will spend the year practising mercy at every level – from priests celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation to people feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
Christians are called to be the living presence of God in the world - people who uncover the face of God and the heart of God in the words and actions of their everyday life.
That's how Jesus is born, not only in one moment of history, but in every moment of history.
To live a merciful life is to see, love and act as Jesus himself does.
The practise of virtue is an integral part of the process of Christian transformation – of changing our minds and hearts, of allowing God’s grace to re-fashion us in the image of his Son.
That’s what contemplation is all about life – allowing the heart of God to grow within our own, our values and attitudes to be changed and transformed so that we come to see with God’s eyes, feel with God’s heart and act with God’s intentions toward the world and its peoples.
For us Carmelites, our contemplative experiences of God’s love enable us to see others as our brothers and sisters.
Our charism of ‘community’ is much more than just being part of a group. It’s about ‘fraternity’, becoming a brother or sister to others and acting towards them as a true brother or sister would – welcoming them into my life, standing with them in times of trouble and distress, looking after their needs, encouraging and affirming them, celebrating achievements. It’s about easing the burdens and lightening the load for each other. It’s about creating moments of grace in each other’s’ lives.
To act with mercy is to act with compassion, with the same depth of the feelings of love and concern a mother has for her child.
It is not an abstract, intellectual thing, but a real choice to live and act with deep respect and profound compassion towards others in the concrete circumstances of our daily lives.
It is not an exercise of the mind but a movement of the heart.
Concrete actions bring goodness into the lives of others. That’s the ‘action’ in the Carmelite Charism - a ‘ministry of mercy’, of respectful, compassionate behaviour towards other human beings.
So we do our best to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, do what we can for those in any kind of need. We refrain from the ‘terrorism of gossip’ (as Pope Francis put it), from the need to tear people down. We don’t make fun of people or put them down. We don’t use positions of power to ‘lord it over’ each other or control other peoples’ lives. We do everything we can to be a source of blessing for them – to be people who heal, build up, nourish, strengthen and love.
The Carmelite Way influences everything in our lives, from how we pray to how we drive our cars.
It takes practice and patience to become a merciful person. It begins with the realisation of how much God actually loves us in spite of how we often behave.
This Year of Mercy gives us new energy in our striving to allow the heart of God to be our own and to reveal that heart in the simple goodness of our lives.