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Mercy cannot be codified, legislated or judged

As Western powers mollified national constituencies by increasing air sorties over Syria and as U.S. presidential candidates advocated opening our national doors to only Christian refugees and closing our borders to all Muslims, Pope Francis began his Holy Year of Mercy by driving into a Muslim neighborhood in Bangui, Central African Republic, so racked by sectarian violence that armed U.N. troops fear to enter it.
In an open-air popemobile, Francis drove into that neighbourhood and proclaimed at its central mosque: “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”
Later that day, Francis threw open the holy door in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Bangui. The first time in history a jubilee year opened outside of Rome, this goes beyond a symbolic action, showing that the Vatican isn’t the center of Catholicism.
On the plane with journalists returning to Rome after his Africa trip, Francis was asked if the church would consider changing its teaching on birth control, particularly, will the church allow the use of condoms given the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa?
His response: “The question seems too small to me. It seems to me also like a partial question.”
“Malnutrition, exploitation of persons, slave work, lack of drinking water. These are the problems,” he said. The question the journalist asked, Francis said, “makes me think of what they asked Jesus one time: ‘Tell me, master, is it licit to heal on the Sabbath?’
“I do not like to descend into reflections that are so casuistic when people are dying,” he continued. “I would say to not think if it is licit or not licit to heal on the Sabbath. I say to humanity: Make justice, and when all are healed, when there is not injustice in this world, we can speak of the Sabbath.”
He then went on to speak of fundamentalism, calling it a sickness and idolatry.
“Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions. We Catholics have some — and not some, many — who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil. … I say this because it is my church. We have to combat it. Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God.”
This year may be known officially as a jubilee year and the Year of Mercy, but it could as well be called the year of big questions or the year to ask questions.
Catholics haven’t been allowed to ask questions for the last 35 years. For decades, we’ve watched as the big questions have been sidelined while enduring endless exercises in casuistry. All answers, we’ve been told, can be found in the unyielding lines from the Code of Canon Law or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as if these are the holy grails.
There is a reason that not a single entry on mercy can be found in the index of the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, the authoritative work commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America. Mercy cannot be codified, legislated or judged in a tribunal.
The fear inspired by legalism dominated the community’s life for decades, but we’ve learned that fear stifles and kills; it does not nourish or transform. Mercy is an encounter with the other, and ultimately an experience of God. Mercy is transformation. That is Francis’ message this holy year.
Francis reminds us that we are like the lawyers who asked Jesus about the limits of love and got the parable of the good Samaritan in return, or like the teachers of the law who brought the woman caught in adultery before Jesus and he turned them away. Jesus has replaced the law with love, and when we hear that, we are like the elder brother of the prodigal son, dumbfounded by the unimaginable extravagance of God’s love.
Don’t be mistaken or put off by the quaintness of some holy year exercises, and don’t think this will be an easy year. The mercy Francis invites us to isn’t a feel-good notion of “Everything’s all right, do what you want.” He offers no free passes.
We have a pope who is inviting — challenging — us to ask the most pressing questions of the day. The answers lie, Francis tells us, in the encounters at the peripheries of the church and society. That’s why Francis has ordered the opening of holy doors throughout all the dioceses of world, and it was not by chance that he began his holy year in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, and at a mosque in the forgotten capital of a war-torn African country.
Speaking at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 8, Francis said: “We have to put mercy before judgment, and in every case God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. Let us abandon all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us live the joy of encounter with the grace that transforms all.”

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  1. In practice : Good reason perhaps to defy some of the precepts of canon law?

  2. Kevin Walters says:

    The mercy Francis invites us to isn’t a feel-good notion of “Everything’s all right, do what you want.” He offers no free passes
    Pope Francis says we need be a Church of mercy and so we do, but more importantly we need to be a humble Church, a Church driven by Humility, as Gods Mercy received in humility guarantees spiritual growth, which wells up into eternal life.
    I believe in absolute Truth as the Angels and God’s servants in heaven do also, as they give glory to our Father in Heaven
    The inviolate Word of God which emanates from The mind/heart of Jesus Christ can only be absorbed by serving the Truth within the heart, His direct teaching in the gospels are not open for debate, His expounding of The Ten commandments are inviting — challenging — our sinful hearts into a confrontation with the Truth, The inviolate Word of God, His teaching on The Commandments end in these words Matthew 5:48
    “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”
    This teaching can only be achieved in humility (St. Bernard-Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is abases himself)) to abase oneself before Our Father is to serve the absolute Truth as our conciseness at that moment in time, becomes one with our Father Will, as the absolute Truth embraces Itself. We can only walk in humility before our Father in heaven as we are All continually dependent upon HIS mercy.
    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS”
    The peace of Christ is received by serving the Truth in humility, if not, His Word becomes a stumbling block (in self-justification we injure our own souls) but those who purport self-righteousness in their pride will be crushed like dust.
    Man’s mercy better defined as compassion cannot remove the guilty of sin, we can only accept our brothers and sisters in compassion (None judgemental) as they encounter the cross roads (Difficulties) of life whatever they may be.
    Divine mercy “the grace that transforms all” can only be received by standing before God in humility and the path that leads to this humility is the absolute Truth, the living Word of God as defined by Jesus Christ living within the heart.
    In Christ

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