In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave us "a mandate" to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world."
By David Came (Apr 28, 2009)
As reported on this website April 20, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19, of Divine Mercy as the source of the Church's unity and of how the Risen Christ "renews us from within." But he had mercy on his mind a week earlier.
It turns out the Holy Father on Easter Sunday emphasized how we can assist the Risen Christ in taking up the call to "justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness, and love." He issued this challenge in his Urbi et Orbi message, which is his annual Easter message to Rome and the entire world (given on Easter Sunday, April 12).
Further, the Pope said that this is the message he "wanted to convey" on his recent pastoral visit to Africa and that he "shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land," which he will visit May 8-15.
Using the imagery of a spiritual battle in referring to the victory of Christ's Resurrection and the part we are called to play in it as Christians, the Holy Father said in his Urbi et Orbi message:
Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, He still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help Him to affirm His victory using His own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness, and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty, and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of traveling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation — difficult, but indispensable — is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering, and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Pope then summed up our call to engage in a "peaceful battle" of "justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness, and love" for the Risen Christ in these stirring words:
Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ's Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help Him to affirm His victory using his own weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness, and love.
Reflect on these words of the Holy Father and consider how you can best respond in "mercy, forgiveness, and love" during the rest of this Easter season. Think of your personal and home life — of your relationships at work and in your parish.
Is there someone who hurt you deeply whom the Lord is calling you to forgive? In these tough economic times, is there a work of mercy you can perform for a family member, co-worker, or neighbor who is in need? Or perhaps there is someone close to you, at work or at home whom you have a very hard time loving. Can you renew your commitment to love the person, even when he or she rubs you the wrong way?
One thing that all of us could do is decide, beginning today, to pray daily for the success of Pope Benedict's pastoral visit to the Holy Land in May. Include it among your intentions when you pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and the Rosary.
Pray that his visit to the Holy Land helps foster the "reconciliation" that the Holy Father noted is so needed "to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." May it help bring peace to that troubled region.
Whether you choose to respond to this call through prayer, works of mercy, or acts of forgiveness and unconditional love, you will be affirming with Pope Benedict that "mercy" is indeed the message of Easter. And keep your eyes on Pope Benedict as he brings a message of reconciliation to the Holy Land on May 8. He is our Mercy Pope.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass. His new book is Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate.