The Closing Mass: ' The Triumph of Living Mercy'

Since the first-ever World Apostolic Congress on Mercy did nothing short of inflame the hearts of thousands, it could no nothing less than conclude with a mandate.

That mandate was delivered Sunday by Cardinal Christopher Schönborn, the celebrant of the congress's closing Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

"We are now departing after the blessed days of this congress," he said in his homily, "and we are putting ourselves on the road with burning hearts to be everywhere and always with the Lord as witnesses of His immeasurable mercy."

He alluded to the societies to which many of the pilgrims return, societies where corruption, poverty and injustice run rampant, where economic interests trump the public good, and where humanity is often stripped of its dignity. Only hearts transformed by Christ can transform the world, he said.

"There are today many disillusioned people," he said. Such disillusionment, he said, prompts people to ask: "Is God watching? Is justice impotent? Why all the suffering? Where is the power of the arm of God in all this misery and poverty?"

After four full days of delving deep into heart of the gospel message of mercy, the congress participants had filed in for the morning Mass under Michelangelo's silver-blue dome. An awe-inspiring week ended at an awe-inspiring location, and with a gospel reading that proved to be, in Cardinal Schönborn's words, "a beautiful coincidence."

It was from Luke 24:13-35, the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem on the third day after Christ's death. The two disciples, too, are feeling disillusioned and dejected, until they meet Christ on the road. It's the journey of every Christian. The two don't yet know He is the Lord God. Seeing that they are disheartened, He uses the Scriptures to explain that the Messiah had to suffer and die to enter into his glory. He begins to reignite their faith. They see He is in need of food and shelter. Through their hospitality toward Him, they come to see He is the Risen Lord and make haste to proclaim the Good News.

Cardinal Schönborn said that, similarly, we can encounter Christ by opening our hearts to receive His word and through showing hospitality to the many in need.

"What an example for us, to prepare for our encounter with Christ through our hospitality," said Cardinal Schönborn, who presided over the previous four days of talks, prayer and celebration. "'Be merciful as Your Father is merciful.' How many times in living and performing simple works of mercy we have been able to experience the closeness of the Lord. The history of the success of Christianity is not a story of military triumphs or political triumphs. It is rather the triumph of living mercy. Only in this way can you become convinced. The words can be beautiful, but in the end they are only words. But the acts of mercy, instead, are indisputable."

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