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Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The Year of Mercy: What is Mercy?

With the announcement of a Year of Mercy by Pope Francis, we should start by asking ourselves "what is mercy?"  And let us follow up that question with another: "what does mercy require of me?"  Far too many think mercy is a nothing more than a complacency with sin in practice: "God loves me.  I am forgiven.  I can go and not feel bad about my sins."

On the contrary, true mercy is found in prayer and penance.  It is found in our spiritual works of mercy: admonishing sinners to repent, go to Confession, and reunite themselves with the Sacraments.  True mercy is not a "feel good ideal" similar to how the protestants view salvation.  True mercy is inseparable from Catholic notions of penance.

Bishop Fellay in his Letter of May 2015 provided a reflection on True Mercy.  The following an except from that document:
What exactly is [mercy] about? In itself mercy is a word that is dear to the heart of every Catholic, because it designates the most touching manifestation of God’s love for us. In past centuries the apparitions of the Sacred Heart were nothing but a more intense revelation of this mercy of God toward mankind. The same must be said about devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Nevertheless true mercy, which implies this initial, extremely touching movement of God toward the sinner and His misery, continues in a moment of the creature’s conversion to God: “God desires not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (cf. Ezek 33:11). Hence the Gospels insist on the duty of conversion, renunciation and penance.  Our Lord went so far as to say: “Unless you do penance, you shall all perish” (cf. Lk 13:5).

This call to conversion is the heart of the Gospel, which we find in St. John the Baptist as well as in St. Peter. When sinners, touched by preaching, ask what they must do, they hear only this recommendation: “be converted and do penance.” The Blessed Virgin in her apparitions in recent centuries, both in La Salette and in Lourdes or Fatima, says nothing different: “prayer and penance”.

Now the new preachers of a new mercy insist so much on the first step taken by God toward human beings who are lost because of sin, ignorance and misery that they too often omit this second movement, which must come from the creature: repentance, conversion, the rejection of sin. Ultimately, the new mercy is nothing but complacency about sin. God loves you... no matter what.


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