Jesus, the Face of God’s Mercy

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James,

and went up on the mountain to pray. And

while he was praying, the appearance of his

face changed, and his clothes became

dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

Luke describes an experience that the disciples had of Jesus. We have long described this event as the transfiguration, an experience of change in Jesus while he was praying. A deeper reading of the story however might lead us to see it in a different way. Perhaps the change was not in Jesus, for he remained the same Jesus that had called the disciples. He was the same Jesus whom they had been following. But in this experience they had come to see something more. They began to recognize more fully who he was. Luke tells us that they saw this in his face. But the change was in the disciples who caught a glimpse of Jesus, Lord and Savior. What did they see?

Pope Francis I has called us into a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The document he issued to summon us into this year begins with the words: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy…. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth.” Pope Francis captured what was seen by the disciples in the face of Jesus on that mountain – the face of God’s mercy.

As disciples, Peter, John and James followed Jesus as he shared his message and his mission. They heard what he said as he proclaimed the reign of God among us. They saw what Jesus did when he welcomed the outcasts of society, when he healed the broken of heart and body. They gradually became more aware of who Jesus was and the significance of their relationship with him. As disciples they were to become like this Jesus they were following. He was their master (teacher) and model. And he showed them “the face of God’s mercy.”

What does this mean for us who are disciples in the 21st century? Again we go to Francis and our Year of Jubilee: “Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God to humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

On that mountain, the disciples met this face of mercy. Ultimately, his disciples were to take Jesus, his message and his mission to the world, to be shared by all peoples. They were to reach out beyond their little world to a much larger and more challenging one. So too is the call to us, for we too are to be the face of Jesus, the face of mercy to all in our world.

Such mercy is to be lived and its meaning comes forth in actions, actions of love and caring and compassion. At this time, in our community we await the arrival of a Syrian family coming to make their home with us. Our welcome in care and love will be the living face of mercy for them.

As a community we reach out as with the face of mercy to the wider world as well. Through Development and Peace we seek to liberate and stand in solidarity with peoples around the globe. This Sunday we are asked to reflect on how we can help bring homes to others. Home is the base on which all find peace, stability, safety and security. As the Catholic Church in Canada, Development and Peace is the face of mercy helping to provide homes in the poorest of slums and places of struggling populations.

May we recognize in Jesus the face of God’s mercy and reveal it to all the peoples of our world.