Feb 11

Lent’s Prescriptive Lenses

“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.”

Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy Minute

Today I offer a reflection on Ash Wednesday’s Gospel reading:  Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18.

It had already been one of those days!  I was unavoidably late for the bus that was to take our college students to a retreat.  As a result, I had to drive myself.  I made a few wrong turns and I had to make a few unscheduled pit stops.  When I arrived, I was late and not in a very good mood.

As I said, it had already been one of those days, so I wasn’t completely surprised, when the lens popped out of my glasses as I cleaned them!  Without my glasses it would be next to impossible for me to read or write during the retreat.  To fix my glasses, all I needed was a screwdriver small enough to fit the tiny screw that had come loose.

I asked the retreat center staff if they had the appropriate tool – they did not.  So then I checked the toolbox in my car – but struck out there also.  I had resigned myself to a retreat where I couldn’t read or write when I looked down and saw the glint of metal on the pavement.  It looked to be part of a broken clasp, but whatever it was, it was small, thin and came to a blunt point.  It was the perfect improvised tool for the task at hand!  With the kind help of a friend, my glasses were repaired and the retreat turned out to be a really good one with some really great students!

I share this story because “life happens” to all of us.  And when it does, we often lose perspective – we lose focus on what is truly important and meaningful in life – we don’t see clearly.  Lent is the antidote.  It is an opportunity to refocus on what is truly important and meaningful in life.  It is a chance to regain a better, more useful perspective.  In the Ash Wednesday Gospel that begins Lent, Jesus talks about prayer, fasting and alms-giving.  In some ways, these are the prescriptive lenses meant to give us clearer focus on what truly matters.

What is fasting but the prescriptive lens that encourages us to look beyond our own selfish needs and desires?  When done well, we recognize that what we most hunger and yearn for is friendship, family, wisdom, forgiveness and peace.

Jesus also talks about alms-giving. This is when we give our time and treasure to those most in need.  What is alms-giving but the corrective lens that helps us focus on those who are most vulnerable and marginalized – the very people that God is most concerned about?  Alms-giving helps us see the world through the lens of mercy.

And then there’s prayer – the corrective lens that allows us to see more clearly all the ways God is present and active in our lives: the smile of a friend, the beauty of a sunset, the forgiveness that you didn’t deserve, the profound insight found in some piece of music on the radio.  God is with us in every minute of every day.  Prayer helps us to see more clearly, the God who is hidden in plain sight!

Prayer, fasting and alms-giving, these are the corrective lenses that help us see more clearly when “life happens.”  They help us focus on what is truly important and meaningful for the spiritual life.  May our Lenten prayer, fasting and alms-giving help us to see clearly the depth of God’s mercy and, after 40 days, the joy of Easter’s resurrection.

Jan 18

Pope Francis & Interfaith Dialogue

I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with… other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.”

Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy Minute







Number 7, January 18, 2016

     On Sunday, Pope Francis visited Rome’s main synagogue where he was greeted with a standing ovation.  Because of Christianity’s Jewish roots, he said, “Christians and Jews must see themselves as brothers and sisters united by the same God and by a rich, common spiritual heritage.”

In fact, Francis is intent on reminding us in this Jubilee Year of Mercy that all people, regardless of their faith, are children of God.  This message could not be clearer than it was in a video posted to YouTube on January 7th.  In one minute, thirty seconds, the Pope brings us all together to pray for and with our brothers and sisters in faith.

View Pope Francis’ Video on YouTube.

Jan 14

Influenced by a “Bad” Example

“As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.”  Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy Minute

You may have read in the news recently that Pope Francis has a new book out.  It is called “The Name of God is Mercy.”

Towards the beginning of the book, Francis talks about how God never tires of forgiving.  Later, he returns to this theme by relating a discussion he once had with a younger priest.  The priest said to Francis (then known as Jorge Bergoglio):  “I always have so many people at the confessional, people of all walks of life, some humble, and some less humble… I forgive a lot and sometimes I have doubts, I wonder if I have forgiven too much.”  This led to a discussion of mercy and Francis asked the priest what he did when he had those doubts.   “I go to our chapel” the young priest said, “and say to Jesus: ‘Lord, forgive me if I have forgiven too much.  But you are the one who gave me the bad example.’”

It strikes me as very funny to think of Jesus as being a “bad example.”  When kids fall under the bad influence of a friend, Moms all over the world chide their wayward children with the words: “Well, if Jimmy jumped off a cliff would you do it too?!”  In this case I imagine the defiant child saying:  “Well yes Mom, if Jesus is going to forgive like a crazy fool then I will do it too!”

In the matter of forgiving others, may each of us follow Jesus’ “bad” example of forgiving again and again.

Jan 05

Vessels of Mercy

Mercy Minute

“In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort.”  Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus


In this jubilee year, we are urged to extend mercy to those around us.  I offer this prayer from Catholic Relief Services to encourage us in this task.

Vessels of mercy

A prayer for the Year of Mercy

God of Mercy,
As you have forgiven us
So you send us forth
To bear your message of mercy to all.

Give us willing feet and gentle hands.
Bless us with listening ears and searching eyes.
Endow us with understanding minds.
Ordain us with compassionate hearts.

In our acts and in our words
Make us vessels of your mercy
To reach out to the broken
On behalf of the Father who wipes away our debts
As lovingly as he wipes away our tears
And calls his children home.

Help us lift your people in body and spirit.
And so make every year a year of mercy.

Prayer from Catholic Relief Services


Dec 15

Mercy Minute 3 – Opening the Holy Door

“…the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” – Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy Minute

One of the traditions of celebrating a Jubilee Year is the ceremonial opening of the Holy Door or “Porta Sancta.” By crossing the Holy Door threshold, pilgrims enter into God’s great and tender mercy.

Guided by the image of opening the Jubilee Door, let us contemplate opening the door of our hearts in this Advent season as we reflect on God’s invitation to mercy.

  • Open the door that allows you to listen to God in quiet
  • Open the door that may be closed for fear of encounter with another
  • Open the door to trust in others
  • Open the door that will release new energy for mission
  • Open the door to forgive a hurt in family or community
  • Open the door to a broader vision, to a new possibility in life
  • Open the door that leads to peace
  • Open the door to love another
  • Open the door to receive God’s mercy

We pray that this Advent and the Jubilee Year of Mercy will be a spiritual journey of opening doors. Mindful of the many persons who suffer from violence and pain, may the world be changed, one person at a time, as we in the community of Mercy give comfort to each person we encounter. This we pray. Amen!

Adapted from materials provided by the Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy

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