Did you read last week’s article in this space? It was a wonderful piece written by staff member, Jennifer Williams, long involved in faith formation for our parish. If you haven’t read it, please take the time to do so. Since I got a “week off” from writing the column I had the chance to stop and reflect upon what Jennifer wrote. If you think about it, she was writing about the most basic act of mercy: acting upon the compassion in our hearts for one another (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae [ST II-II.30.1]). To invite another to be part of our community is a mercy that says to another: you are noticed, you are valued for who you are, and you are welcomed. As Jennifer wrote: “Research has found that at least one-third of inactive Catholics would like to reconnect with the Church, but they are reluctant to make the first move. They are waiting for an invitation, for some sign that they will be welcomed. We all know someone (a family member, friend, neighbor) whose faith has taken a back seat.”
It seems to me that extending an invitation to the people we already know, whose faith is not as active as it can be, is a great Mercy – not only to them but to us. If we truly believe our Catholic faith is a treasure, then we are called by Mercy to share what we have received for free. It is the compassion in our hearts for one another – wanting for them what we value so highly: the Faith. It is the faith brought by Jesus, handed on to the Apostles, and to countless women and men – and finally to us. For us to invite others to share in this great treasure costs us nothing but is a gift of immeasurable value. And when they arrive, we pray that they find our parish a treasure trove of Mercy.
We are celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I have previously written about the celebration of the Jubilee Year and gave an explanation of the logo. One of the striking features is that Christ and the person whom he carries on his shoulder, share a common eye – a way for the artist to say that when the Son of God took on human flesh, he saw with our eyes and invites us to see with His eyes. Especially in the year ahead, we are called to see with the eyes of Mercy. Isn’t that an intrinsic part of extending the invitation to others?
It seems to me, we, as a parish, are beginning to see with those eyes of Mercy. Sure, we have a long way to go, but consider the works of Mercy already happening in this parish:
- Spiritual Works of Mercy in comforting the afflicted: Foster Care Ministry, Human Trafficking, St. Vincent de Paul, Awakening Faith, Divorced and Separated Care, Bereavement Care, AA Ministry, Prison Ministry, Eucharist Ministry at Tampa General, Rosary Ministry, and more.
- Corporal Works of Mercy such as: SVdP collections and food bank drive, Hand of Hope Ministry (and the recent toiletries drive), the Haiti Mission, various Women’s Council projects (e.g. layette drive), the Pope Francis Habitat for Humanity house, and more.
And if you’ve read the above list and thought: “I wonder why we don’t ________; we used to do that in my previous parish….” You are seeing with the Eyes of Mercy and God might just be calling you to invite us to see with that same vision. This is how a community begins to see with eyes of Christ.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy is rolling onward. How will you participate? How will we participate? The invitation is already there.