On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy. In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus. Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Mercy. This week’s article is made possible with the assistance of Matthew Hawkins, a Seminarian for the Diocese of Orlando in his second year of Theology at St Vincent de Paul Seminary.
We must remember that mercy is not about pity. It is also not only about forgiveness, but as we learn last week forgiveness plays an important part in mercy. Instead mercy is a restoration of one’s dignity. As CS Lewis points out in the above quote, we must regain our “face”, our identity, before we can truly have our dignity. In Luke 15:11-32, we find the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as St John Paul II explains, shows us the importance of our identity that is rooted in God. In that parable we see a father who has lost his identity, his dignity, as father and the son has lost his identity, his dignity, as son. It is only after mercy, shown by the father, are the familial bonds restored and therefore both regain their identity and their dignity.
In the same way for us to truly know mercy we must know what our identity, our ‘face’, is based off of. From Genesis we find out that we are made in the image and likeness of God. That our identity is based off of the overflowing love that is present in the Trinity. To assist in knowing our identity Jesus became physically present and revealing himself in our world through the Incarnation, which we will celebrate shortly on Christmas. We also know that he continues to make his presence known in the Eucharist. We also know that due original sin we may mistakenly place the source of our identity in something worldly, like our jobs, our cars, or our hobbies.
Knowing these facts we must ensure that we come before Jesus often in order to regain our true sense of identity. It is in his real presence in the Eucharist that we can most clearly see his face and regain our face for ourselves. Through this interaction Jesus in the Eucharist becomes the “Face of Mercy,” that Pope Francis speaks about in Misericordiae Vultus. Like the Prodigal Son, we must begin our journey of mercy by burying our faces in the cloak of the Father so that we may be lifted up to see him face-to-face. Through our submission, through our adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist, we gain union with him and are able to fully receive his love.
So what ways can we submit to Jesus in the Eucharist during this Year of Mercy? We can begin by ensuring that we seek Mercy himself by attending Mass every Sunday. If possible we should strive to attend a weekday daily Mass. In addition throughout the Year of Mercy there are opportunities to sit in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every First Friday. On those First Friday after the morning Mass, Priests will expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. During this period we can look on the Face of Mercy, giving us time to reflect how who we are looking at. That we truly look upon the Jesus, the Face of Mercy, when we look at the Eucharist. We must use that time to submit fully to Jesus so that in seeing him physically present in the Eucharist we may see his face and gain an awareness of who we truly are.