The Face of Mercy

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Start your meeting
with a sign of the cross, your preferred prayer, and a few moments to reflect on this Scripture

Someone Read: 2 Cor. 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who consoles us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to console others who are afflicted
with the comfort and consolation with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Read the reflection:
by Fr Chris Skinner SM

Some of you may know Fr James Lyons. He is a priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington. He is presently administrator of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Wellington, but also a writer and broadcaster.
Last year he sent me several reflections he had written and asked me to compose music to them.

One song is entitled Mother of Mercy. James writes, "the song sings of the power of mercy to enable new beginnings and to bring peace. Those who give birth to mercy are, like all true mothers, forgetful of their own hurt and concerned only for the pain within the other……Compassion and companionship are components of a worthwhile journey".

James was mindful of the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, which of course is in full swing now, while penning the lyrics to the song.
Given the maternal image of the song, I was heartened to read in an article, The Face of Mercy, some of the background to this extraordinary year of mercy. "The Catholic Church wants to show herself a loving mother to all, patient, kind, moved by compassion, and goodness towards her separated children."

A question the article poses is, 'How does this image help us imagine the work of mercy, particularly among the wounded members of humanity?'
The article then goes onto say, 'The Mercy of God is a concrete reality, as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depth out of love for their child.'

Given our human experience, our relationships with parents are not always positive and for some people seeing God as a merciful father figure or tender mother is difficult. I acknowledge that painful reality, but also acknowledge the huge sacrifices and countless acts of love parents and grandparents extend to the children in their care which can and do bring into focus the gracious and boundless love of God. When we are aware of our own self-centredness and mistakes and kneel at the feet of God's mercy, we are more inclined to understand and forgive those who have hurt us, even those closest to us.

When Fr James sent me the lyrics of his song, Mother of Mercy, Mary immediately came to mind. Some of you may remember the traditional hymn, Mother of Mercy by Fr Faber. I remember singing it in my late teens. The tune has long escaped me. The opening line is, 'Mother of Mercy day by day my love of thee grows more and more'. However, Fr James' song is not about Mary per se but as has already been stated above 'those who give birth to mercy are like true mothers'. As a Marist, I couldn't help but think of Mary as the exemplar of a true mother. She is the one acutely aware of God's mercy in her Magnificat. 'He has looked on the lowliness of his handmaid…..and his mercy is from age to age'. As Marists ourselves, to be an 'instrument of mercy' is our particular calling.

I would like now to share with you the lyrics of Fr James' song and the song itself. Composing a melody to someone else's lyrics is not always that easy. I had to adapt what James had sent me. We exchanged several emails and finally settled on what I sing for you now.

You hold seeds for the planting
in the soil of our sorrow;
Your own memory of pain
covering our shame.
You rejoice in the harvest of pardon

You speak for the voiceless,
But also the cruel
And destroyers of good
You seek a change of heart
You want no one to feel or be worthless

Chorus: Mother of Mercy, compassion us home
Compassion us home. Compassionate one
Give birth to the peace of forgiveness,
a peace we can't know on our own,
Mother of Mercy, compassion us home.

Ease the anger we suffer
As our faults take a stronghold
And our dignity stripped
By the thieves of innocence
For there's welcome and hope in your arms

James Lyons, May 2015

Articles on mercy, songs and reflections such as this one are good reminders about this Jubilee year, but of course it is the living out of mercy in our lives and allowing God's mercy to heal and change us and those around us that really matters.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. This is not in the Gospel," Pope Frances said on February 18th of this year.
God in being merciful to us builds a bridge to our hearts and invites us to find rest for our souls, to cross over to fresh and green pastures as Psalm 23 reminds us.

The fruit of this Jubilee year of mercy will be if those separated from us, personally and as a Church, by walls of any kind and (we could name what those walls are). If they are separated by walls of any kind and if they can see our efforts in taking down the walls - and from the very stones build bridges instead, that will be the difference; that will be the fruit of this year.

Please use these questions as a guide to stimulate discussion on the points of most relevance.

Look again at the Scripture above. God invites us to let him console and comfort us in our afflictions. What do you think of the idea that when we personally experience God's mercy we are equipped to offer comfort, mercy and hope to others facing similar struggles? Has this ever happened for you?

What is your experience of being encouraged or consoled by someone else who has experienced help with a similar trial?

"The Catholic Church wants to show herself a loving mother to all, patient, kind, moved by compassion, and goodness towards her separated children." 'How might a focus on this image of the church as a loving mother impact parish life and mission?

The song uses 'Compassion' as a verb. Have you ever thought of it like that? How do you need to be 'compassioned' today?

Our Charter No 5

When a mother co-operates with God and His loving plan for herself and her family, she is nurtured by the Holy Spirit. She becomes holy; is a blessing and a grace for her family and others.

The Spirit of God has made his home in you Romans 8:9

Prayer time
For your own intentions and the needs of others.

Please remember to pray for the mothers and babies (born and unborn) dedicated to Our Lady of Good Hope.

Prayer Time: For your own intentions and other needs.
Conclude the meeting with this Closing prayer

Radiant God, every day I want to open the treasure chest of my life.

In there, I find unending gifts of every kind to offer you.

Every day I am seeking, I too am longing.
I go among my busy days yearning for the Unknown One.

Holy One, reveal your presence.
Every day I bring gratitude for you and my desire to grow more loving,
my longing to be true.

Open the eyes of my heart. Awaken my attuned spirit;
bring me to full attention,
so that I come to know,
in every moment,
your radiant guidance.