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Year of Mercy Pastoral Letter from Bishop Toal

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As you know Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has promulgated the coming year as a Jubilee Year of Mercy under the heading “Merciful like the Father” drawing us to Our Lord’s words – “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36). Through the year at the Sunday Eucharist we will listen to the Gospel of St Luke, so rich in Our Lord’s teaching about our Merciful Father and his call to us to be merciful people. Pope Francis instructs us as follows on this special time:

A Time to Contemplate the Mystery of Mercy:

“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and most supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks in the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”.

A Time to Take up the Joyful Call for Mercy:

“The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call for mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”

A Time for New Evangelization and New Pastoral Action:

“In the present, as the Church is charged with task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and new pastoral action. It is absolutely essential for the Church and the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.”

A Time for Pilgrimage, of Conversion by Passing through the Holy Door:

“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year as it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage and the human being is a visitor, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his/her way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome, or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the Holy Door we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”

A Time to Practise the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy:

“It is my burning desire that during this Jubilee the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often, grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching, so that we can know whether we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy either: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.”

A Time to Experience the Lord’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

“Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more, in such a way, that it will enable people to touch once again the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands, for every penitent it will be a source of true interior peace.”

Some Thoughts from Me:

I would like to return again to the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist, at which we gather each week to seek God’s mercy as we celebrate the Sacred Mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. I propose that we highlight our plea for mercy by singing “Lord have mercy” (or “Kyrie eleison”). Indeed it would be good to sing these words at every Mass, in churches, schools and other places.

The plea for God’s mercy features strongly also in the Communion Rite of the Mass – in the words of the Our Father (Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver from evil.); It is in the ‘Lamb of God’ as well as its response as we prepare to receive Holy Communion (“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”). It is good to pay special attention to these well-known prayers and to say or sing them together with renewed attention and devotion. Our offering of the sign of peace too is an expression of our sharing the mercy God pours upon us through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

With Christmas Day on a Friday this year there is an opportunity for families to celebrate together both Christmas Day itself and the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday. It is very much in our personal relationships, in our own homes, that we are called upon to give and receive mercy, and it will be good to come to Mass as families through the feast-days of Christmas to seek the Lord’s mercy and blessing for the times ahead.

With Pope Francis, therefore, I commend to you the Jubilee Year of Mercy and invite you to participate in it as fully as possible. Hopefully it will be a time of grace for us personally and as Church. May the Lord be with us and bless us. With my prayers and best wishes,

+ Joseph Toal Diocesan Centre, Coursington Road, Motherwell. ML1 1PP

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