Mercy and compassion

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By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WITH Pope Francis pushing what he calls as the Church of mercy and
compassion, we all have to do some adjustments in our attitudes and
thinking, because with that call some kind of paradigm shift is
actually being presented to us for the life of the Church.

To be sure, this papal thrust is not meant to undo what the previous
pontificates and the several councils have accomplished. We have to be
clear about this, and set aside fears the Pope is taking the Church in
the wrong direction. It simply is a step further, Spirit-inspired, in
the path the Church has to take to pursue its mission.

It’s also a thrust that is more attuned to the temper of the times,
when a lot of developments are happening, giving us both good and
not-so-good things. More than just a confusion in doctrine, there is a
big haemorrhaging in the Church with more and more people feeling if
not being alienated from it.

This thrust of Pope Francis’ pontificate is meant to tackle this
problem in the Church. We cannot anymore be casual, passive and
cavalier toward those who are getting farther away from the Church. We
have to reach out to them as actively and as persistently as possible.

This means that even as we tighten our grip of what is essentially
right and wrong with respect to faith and morals, we should also try
to loosen as much as possible our ways of dealing with everybody so as
to be in friendly and talking terms with everyone.

All this is meant to reflect the ways of God himself who is both very
strict and very lenient, very demanding and very patient and merciful.

The mercy and compassion being asked of us is not so much directed to
those in some material need or misery as to those who are in grave
spiritual and moral predicaments. In the prayer for the preparation of
the papal visit to our country, these persons are referred to as “the
weak and the lost.”

The mercy and compassion presented to us is that aspect of the
redemptive life and work of Christ who fraternized with sinners, who
taught us to love our enemies, who spoke of the parables of the lost
sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and who bore all the sins of
men by offering his life on the cross.

They all tell us that it is not enough to have good intentions only
towards others, nor to do some acts of charity which is more of
philanthropy than anything else, a kind of “noblesse-oblige” mindset.

The mercy and compassion asked of us is that very attitude of the
poor widow who out of what she had to live on gave her two mites in
contrast to the rich man who gave quite a bit but out of his
abundance.

This papal approach is asking us to go beyond being doctrinally
correct, without of course disparaging in any way the need for
doctrinal orthodoxy. It is asking us to be very pastoral and
heroically apostolic, done in a personal way of friendship and
confidence more than as an official duty.

It is asking us to be open and tolerant with everybody if only to
keep the friendship going. We have to check if there’s anything in our
beliefs and practices that we hold in absolute and restrictive manner
when they can allow for other acceptable ways.

And even in the case where one is doctrinally correct and the other
wrong, we should refrain from raising walls between them but rather
should trigger the dynamics of the charity of mercy and compassion.
The extreme of delicacy in our dealings should be lived.

The discussion of the doctrine can wait if the person involved is not
yet ready to accept what is right and wrong in doctrinal matters. We
have to remember that we are not concerned so much about who is right
and who is wrong as about loving everybody.

Our differences should not dull our affection with one another.
Rather, they should enhance it, since only in this atmosphere can
doctrinal differences be settled properly.

However, catechesis in a general way should continue unabatedly,
doing it with gift of gab, adapting it to the concrete conditions of
the listeners. As St. Paul said, we have to “preach the word in
season, out of season.” (2Titus 4,2) He also said that, yes, we can
“reprove, entreat, rebuke” but “in all patience and doctrine.”

The call for a Church of mercy and compassion has to be heeded!

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