Divine Mercy: My First Sermon as a Jesuit
Tomorrow, I’ll give my first homiletic reflection (sermon) as a Jesuit. What’s a more proper topic than Divine Mercy?! The context is Luke 15:3-7, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
When the Jesuit reporter Antonio Spadaro asked Pope Francis the simple question, “Who are you? Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”, the Pope responded, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Though He is the Vicar of Christ, the most “powerful” man in the Holy Mother Church, Francis identifies himself with the lost sheep that Jesus chases, with the sinner who receives God’s immeasurable mercy. In this spirit today I’d like to share two short comments and one brief exhortation that illustrate the length to which Jesus goes to offer us redemptive mercy and the call we have received to grant that mercy to others.
Jesus is a Shepherd of sheep, yet he is a sheep himself, the Lamb of God. We cannot separate these two roles of Our Lord. In the gospel parable Christ brings the lost sheep back to a celebration of neighbors, perhaps a great feast of thanksgiving. Is not this feast the Supper of the Lamb, the celebration of the Eucharist? And what is the Eucharist if not a ceremony of the Lamb’s Blood shed on the cross, poured out for sinners? When we approach the Body and Blood of Jesus in our daily celebrations here, we come both as sinners upon whom Christ has shown mercy and as triumphant soldiers in the Army of the Lord who glory in the victory of the Cross.
But now, the mass does come to an end. This banquet is only a foretaste of the everlasting wedding supper to come. While we remain on earth, there is work to be done for the sake of the gospel. Is this task any different from that of the pastor of Luke’s parable? We, strengthened by the mercy of Christ ourselves, set the world on fire by showing that mercy to sinners. One considers the witness of the late Cardinal Bernardin, who, amidst the false accusations of sexual abuse, agreed to meet with the man who brought forth these charges. This man was dying of HIV/AIDS. He had left the Church. After this man, a certain Stephen, consented to an encounter with Bernardin, Stephen asked for full reconciliation with the Catholic community and God. Bernardin said mass for his accuser and offered him forgiveness, reminding us of the words of Jesus on the cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” In the midst of even the greatest forms of agony and backstabbing, we Catholics must commit to be instruments of God’s offer of peace to sinners.
What might we, Jesuit novices, have to learn from these things? Everything! As God despises the sins of his creatures yet loves them nonetheless, we must despise the sins of our fellow creatures yet grant mercy to them nonetheless! Who hates you? Who has wandered from you? Who makes you upset? Love them as Christ would. Who have you offended? Who do you hate? Whose attitudes and actions make you cringe? Be reconciled with these people in the spirit of Christ! We constantly receive the mercy of Christ, for we have sinned, yet we share the mercy of Christ because we are His imitators.
Let me close with a brief prayer taken from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It captures the essence of this Lucan parable: “Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen.”
Thanks for reading,
David JW Inczauskis, nSJ