It is now more than three years since Pope Francis called on the whole church to become a worldwide community of mercy. As he did so, he was expressing what we hear in Mark’s Gospel this weekend. Asked by a scribe which commandment was first and most important, Jesus responded: “The first is, the Lord our God is one; you must love the Lord your with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mk 12:29-31)
What Pope Francis did was announce a whole year, a jubilee year focused on mercy and the love of which it is an expression. Our church was called to a year long journey beginning in December 2015 and ending in 2016, a year of reflecting on and discovering what is at the core of who God calls the Christian Church to be, who we are called to be.
Pope Francis issued this call in a homily presented in Lent of 2015. In the homily he traced out some of the hope he had for our community. It was to be a year of discovering again our Gospel call and our mission – to bring to every human being the Good News of God’s mercy and love for all.
Our church has many aspects and elements. Often, as in all areas of our lives we find ourselves swimming in the midst of a host of directives, laws, practices, possibilities and demands. Our church is a complex community with a variety of persons, nations and cultures around the world. But is there some core that is at the center of who we are? If we were to ask as the scribe did, what comes first, what is our center? Francis merely restated what Jesus had answered to the scribe.
The call to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves is at the core of our whole faith. All other aspects of our faith, our church and our Christian lives flow from this. As Jesus in word and action is the “face of the Father’s mercy”, so we as Church, above all, are to be the face of Jesus in our world.
Now, three years later, it may be a good time to revisit this call and ask how we are doing as church.
Are we the face of Jesus in our world? Do we reveal mercy and love above all else? Is this manifested in our local communities and in who each of us is personally?