Saturday, 30 January 2016

Crossing the Bridge of Mercy

There is an American saying that goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The opposite side of this saying would be, "It's broke, so fix it." 

We are celebrating a special Jubilee Year in the Church, called for by Pope Francis. The origin and character of Jubilee Years can be found in the book of Leviticus 25:8. 
“You shall count seven weeks of years—seven times seven years—such that the seven weeks of years amount to forty-nine years. Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month let the ram’s horn resound; on this, the Day of Atonement, the ram’s horn blast shall resound throughout your land. You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.”
It was to be a time to put everything back into right order - to rest the land and reestablish all relationship to right order - in other words, to fix it.

Pope Boniface VIII instituted the first Christian Jubilee in the year 1300. His focus was also on right relationship, mainly the relationship between Christians and there God. The penalty for sin is banishment, Adam and Eve were banished from paradise, the Christian banished from heaven. This banishment was reflected in one's banishment from the life of the Church and even one's place in society. But for those who would repent and confess their sin, forgiveness was given and their banishment lifted.

Those who have been banished find themselves left outside and facing, as it were, a locked door which barred them from entering. The unlocking and opening of a real door of forgiveness and reconciliation, became a symbol of the grace offered to banished sinners in a Jubilee Year. The symbolic act of opening a Holy Door remains with us to this day.

I think another symbol of the consequence of sin is a broken bridge. Bridges are meant to unite, but if they are broken they stand to divide the very ones they were meant to unite. Therefore, broken bridges must be fixed.

Engineers tell us that to build a bridge, work must be undertaken from both sides. It would follow that fixing a broken bridge would require the same approach. In the case of broken situations caused by sin, there is also two sides to be considered, one side has to do with the one who sins, and the other side with the One who is sinned against.

On the sinner's side, the repair work is called repentance, and from God's side, it is mercy and forgiveness. The motive that moves the sinner to have the brokenness fixed is sorrow for sin and a true desire to be united again with God. God's motive is love, manifested by mercy. 

On our side, what is needed is a master "Pontiff" (from the Latin word pontifex, meaning bridge-builder. Later it meant high priest and finally bishop.) And God has given us such a Pontiff in Pope Francis. By the inspiration of God's grace, he has called us into a special Jubilee Year, exhorting us to engage with the Father, in the work of reconstruction, the work of reconciliation through mercy. BE MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER!

It is now time for everyone to get to work. No doubt, we all have a stake in both sides. We need forgiveness and we need to forgive. 

The Holy days of Lent are soon to begin, a most appropriate time to engage in this work of Mercy. But first we need a plan, a blue to follow.

The observance of Lent has traditionally included the three penitential disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, and Works of Charity. Commentary on each is addressed in the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday. Each one may take on a variety of forms but all are essential for a complete and fruitful experience of Lent.

In Prayer, we set our hearts to listening for the Voice of the Spirit calling us out of the security of the world we have built for ourselves, into a place of discernment. Here we are helped to discover what is hindering us from advancing in our spiritual life, holding us back from crossing over into a deeper union with God.

From Prayer, we move on to embrace the challenge of Fasting; of letting go of the illusions that we believe make us happy and fulfilled. Self denial goes against all the satisfactions the world is offering. We find ourselves caught in the middle, attracted by the truth and goodness that awaits if we go forward, while still clinging to the comfort and security of the familiar.

Finally, if we persevere, we discover another side to a truly fulfilled and happy life. New values motivate us. It is no longer about me, rather it is about we.
"... and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20

Time to get ready, a crossing lies ahead, there is more to come.

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