As we finish last-minute shopping and prepare to receive friends and family for the wondrous and joyful feast of Christmas, let’s pause and remember the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Christ, our Savior, who was sent among us to walk with us as a human and died for our sins, as a sign of God’s infinite mercy.
Reflecting on the majesty of God’s mercy, our Holy Father opened a special Jubilee Year of Mercy on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In his message for the 2016 World Day of Peace, Pope Francis says, “Mercy is the heart of God. It must also be the heart of the members of the one great family of His children.”
Much has been said about Pope Francis’ emphasis on compassion, calling the Church “a field hospital” for sinners. But what does this mean for Catholics seeking to live our faith in the public square as advocates for the common good? How do we reveal the heart of God to our neighbors in our day-to-day lives? As Christ says in Matthew 25:40, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Our Faith is first and foremost a Faith offering God’s mercy: it animates the Church’s social teaching and the work of the Virginia Catholic Conference. When we advocate for the repeal of the death penalty, legal status and justice for immigrants, assistance for those in need, and care for our common home, we are advocating God’s mercy. Mercy animates the Holy Father’s World Day of Peace message, seeking it for prisoners, immigrants and the poor, and encouraging all nations to rehabilitate the criminal, welcome the immigrant and care for the voiceless, especially the unborn.
Catholics are called to be salt for the earth and light for the world. We are called to stand in solidarity with our one human family throughout the world and clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick, free the imprisoned, give shelter to the homeless, give drink to the thirsty and bury the dead. By letting the mercy of Christ shine forth in our hearts and forgiving as God forgives, instead of “bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies,” as Pope Francis cautions against, we answer Christ’s commission to bring His mercy to the world. Throughout this year of mercy, the Conference will attempt to connect issues of concern for Catholics to the Holy Father’s call for mercy. The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart here in Richmond has been designated a pilgrimage site for the Jubilee, and we invite you to make a pilgrimage there and join us on Feb. 17, 2016 at the first-ever Virginia Vespers.
Rejoice in the infinite mercy of God this Christmas season, for unto us, a Savior is born!