Fr. Franco's Letters

The Flame: November/December 2022

Dear Readers of the Flame,

I can think of no better word than mercy to describe God’s plan. We see mercy as we peruse through the Old Testament. It is highlighted by the teachings and actions of Jesus. It is the characteristic of God mentioned frequently by Ss. Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as by Pope Francis. Mercy was the vocation of one of our modern saints, Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who was given the title, the secretary of mercy.

When King Jehoshaphat was confronted by an unexpected alliance of enemies, he called God’s people together to seek the Lord. During their time of prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came upon the prophet Jahaziel who encouraged them to lay aside their fears and trust in the Lord who would do battle on their behalf.

The next day King Jehoshaphat led his army out to the battle. However, his battle strategy was unique. The army was led by a choir who sang Give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endures forever. (2 Chronicles 20:21). As they sang this jubilant hymn, the three armies that formed a coalition against Israel began to fight, not Israel, but each other.

Jeremiah, who is better known for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the exiling of its people, also prophesied of its restoration. Amid his description of the restoration of the city and its people, he said:
…the sound of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, singing, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good; his mercy endures forever.” For I will restore this country as of old, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 33:11)

signsThe refrain, His mercy endures forever, is repeated often in the Psalms. Psalm 118 begins and ends with this phrase. Psalm 136 repeats His mercy endures forever 26 times (once for each verse)!

The whole of the New Testament is the unfolding of God’s plan of mercy in Jesus Christ. Pope Francis succinctly summed this up as he introduced the Year of Mercy in the document Misericordiae Vultus. The opening line reads, Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.

In describing his calling St. Paul described the action of God in his life as mercy:
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief…But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:13, 16)

St. Paul’s spoke of the healing of his co-laborer Epaphroditus in this way:
He was indeed ill, close to death; but God had mercy on him, not just on him but also on me, so that I might nothave sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:27)

I think you get the idea. God is merciful. His enduring mercies are new every morning, so great is His faithfulness. (see Lamentations 3:22-23).

I elaborate on God’s mercy as an encouragement for us to respond to God’s mercy. Many people who understand God’s mercy in Jesus Christ have a hard time accepting it for themselves. They can say that His mercy endures forever. However, they are unsure as to how it applies to them.

I want to encourage you to respond to God’s mercy in two ways. The first is this: Believe it! God’s mercy is not just for other people. It is for you and for me. We need to trust in the Lord in a whole hearted manner.

The second response to God’s mercy is also simple: Share it! Most people will come to know God’s mercy through people who are merciful and kind toward them. And as we share mercy with others, we will come to know mercy for ourselves in an even deeper way. Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

A number of years ago, I heard Fr. Tom Dunphy (may he rest in peace) give some advice to a newly ordained priest. It was a word he had heard from an older priest when he was newly ordained. The advice was simple. Treat everyone you meet as if they had a broken heart.

This is good advice for everyone, first because it is true. Everyone has a heart that is broken in some way. And if we treat each other with mercy we will be able to help people see more clearly the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

As we enter into the holiday season, a time that can be stressful and sometimes lonely, let us remember that it is primarily a season of mercy. As we approach Thanksgiving, let us recall that amid the trials of the last year, God has provided for us. As we approach Christmas, let us focus on the Son of God, rich beyond measure who became poor for our sake, to bring us mercy, transformation and the hope of eternal life.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude and your celebration of Christmas overflow with joy.

In Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries