Allocutio at November 2016 Concilium Meeting by Fr. Bede McGregor OP
Thanksgiving for the Year of Mercy
Our Concilium meeting takes place today on the Feast of Christ the King and the last day of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. We feel a great need to thank God for the great graces that were offered to the whole Church during this year. Mercy has been placed very emphatically once more at the very heart of the Church and in every activity of her mission. Mercy is the music of the Gospel, the melody of every page of the Gospel.
First, mercy gives us the most authentic understanding of God. Mercy is not just a pivotal word in the Christian vocabulary; nor is it just a magnificent idea or even only an infinite attribute of God. It defines God. Mercy is a Person. As Pope Francis says: ‘The name of God is Mercy’. He also puts it another way: ‘We can say that mercy is God’s identity card.’ This understanding of God changes everything in our relationship in our relationship to God. It is infinitely good news. Underlying our personal existence at every moment is God, who is mercy.
Secondly, mercy gives us the most authentic understanding of Christ. For Christ is Divine Mercy Incarnate. This is the fundamental revelation of the Old and New Testaments. Even the Pharisees got one thing so right about Christ. For instance St. Luke writes: ‘The tax collectors and the sinners, meanwhile, were all seeking his company to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the Scribes complained. This man, they said, welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ (Luke 15:1). What a sublime definition of Jesus. He is someone who welcomes sinners and eats with them! Of course that is also the way Christ defines himself and his mission: ‘I came to save sinners.’ He gives no other motive for the Incarnation but to befriend sinners and offer them a way to eternal life through his merciful love. The most powerful manifestation of this truth about Jesus is his death and resurrection.
Pope St. Leo the Great, a Father and Doctor of the Church sums up the whole tradition of the Church when he writes: ‘Among all the works of God’s mercy, dearly beloved, which from the beginning have been devoted to the salvation of mortals, none is more wonderful, none more sublime than that Christ was crucified for the world.’ Or, as Pope Francis puts it: ‘The Cross of Christ contains all the love of God: there we find his immeasurable mercy.’ In the Resurrection the reality and meaning of the Cross is proclaimed: mercy has the last word over all sin and death. This is the heart of Christian hope, the cornerstone of our Christian faith. Pope Francis adds: ‘Be careful! The Resurrection is not only the fact of the resurrection after death, but it is a new kind of life that we experience already today: It is the victory over anything that we can already anticipate.’ The paschal mystery is the revelation of God’s mercy, the absolute core of the Gospel, the Kerygma, or simply the ultimate and irreplaceable message of every Christian communication or apostolate.
Thirdly, the Year of Mercy has helped us to understand the Church more clearly as primarily the Church of Mercy. The reason is simple. The Church is the Risen Christ united to and acting through all the members of his Mystical Body. The Church is the instrument the Risen Lord uses to apply his mercy to the individual soul and all humanity. We see this especially in all the Sacraments. They are the actions of the Risen Christ really present among us. During the year of mercy we emphasized in a special way the Sacrament of Reconciliation because that is the precious meeting place of God’s mercy and the sinner. St Jerome puts it well when he writes that in this sacrament, ‘we give our sins to God and he gives us his heart in exchange.’ This why gently leading individuals to this wonderful sacrament is one of the most precious apostolates of the Legion.
Fourthly, I think the year of mercy has specifically helped us to understand the Legion more deeply. Let me try to explain this view: Well, one of the deepest convictions of the Legion expressed so often in the Handbook is that there is no such thing as a hopeless case. This is argued forcefully in sections like the one: ‘Infinite patience and sweetness must be lavished on a priceless soul.’ What is the ground for this radical conviction of the Legion that there is absolutely no such thing as a hopeless case? There are no exceptions to this Legion principle. Why? The reason must be that there is no limit to God’s mercy; it is absolutely infinite. As Pope Francis says: ‘No human sin, no matter how serious, can prevail over or limit God’s mercy. Mary, the Mother of Mercy and the Refuge of Sinners call on us legionaries to be specialists in dispensing the mercy of her Son. We must learn to be merciful to each other in our praesidium meetings and from there in all our contacts with souls. The year of mercy may come to an end in one sense today, but in reality it must signal a new beginning and we must pray that mercy may never slip away from the centre of faith either in principle or practice. Without mercy our Legion makes no sense.
Let me conclude with a quotation from the Handbook: ‘A legionary (most definitely Frank Duff himself) of wide experience of the most depraved sinners of a great city was asked if he had ever met any that were absolutely hopeless. Reluctantly, as a legionary, he acknowledged the existence of such a category, he replied that many were terrible, but few were hopeless. Being pressed, he eventually admitted that he knew of one who seemed capable of being so described.
That very evening he received his overwhelming rebuke. Quite accidentally he met in the street the person he had in mind. Three minutes conversation later and the miracle of a complete and lasting conversation took place!’ So, the mercy of God makes every authentic legionary radiant with hope. Amen.