Be a Missionary of Mercy wherever you are

In the name of the church never tire of being merciful: Pope Francis

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the prisoners, bury the dead, give alms to the poor.

IN this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis made a historic gesture to commission 1000 specially designated Missionaries of Mercy to spread out around the world and be special carriers of the mercy of Christ.    A ‘crack squad’ of emissaries, each of them was sent by the Holy Father, all over the world, with the instructions to preach the mercy of Jesus, and to forgive sins – even the most serious – through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But as with any specialist team of experts, the temptation might be for the rest of us to think, “well, that job has been covered. The Pope’s Missionaries of Mercy are on the job, so I’ll leave them to it and get on with my life.”  The danger being that we don’t recognise in our own lives, the role each one of us is called to play in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Around the morning tea table recently, a discussion broke out about what does it mean for each one of us to be Missionaries of Mercy?   How is this Jubilee Year of Mercy relevant to us?

We know that we are meant to be more mindful of being merciful but what does that actually mean in practice? Good question.

Pope Francis exhorted us: “in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful”, but how might that look in our daily lives. What does that look like?

Mercy in daily life
About a month ago, my husband and I were sitting in the Brisbane airport awaiting our flight home to Canberra. As you do, I cast my eyes around the folks waiting for the same flight as ours, looking for any familiar faces, wondering what people might have been up to in Brisbane.  Arriving in our waiting area was a young mother carrying a very upset baby.  She seemed to have too many bags for her two arms to carry, and she looked pretty stressed out.  As mothers know, it’s a bit tricky offering help for fear that it might be construed as patronising someone, she seemed to be managing, so I left her to it.   I’ll admit to selfishly thinking to myself,  “Gee I hope that baby settles down.  It would be awful if it cried like that all the way to Canberra.”

We boarded the plane from the rear stairs. I was looking forward to a relaxing flight, “Ah, a great opportunity to chill out and listen to my favourite music for a couple of hours,”   I thought.    As we made our way down the aisle I saw this young mum and baby coming down the aisle towards me.   The poor little baby was really crying by now, her mum looking straight ahead trying to find her seat, wrestling with her bags.  She looked really frazzled.

Before I knew we were standing face to face in front of the same aisle. “I’m 22B I said, what seat are you?”  I asked.  She said, “I’m 22C”.

Right. Ok.  I asked her if I could help her and she began to cry.  Not just a sniffle, but a full on “I’ve-had-enough kind of cry”…. and here is where the grace of mercy comes into the story.

Straight away the man across the aisle offered to put her bags in the locker; everyone around simply stood patiently waiting as this bit of drama unfolded.  I offered to take the baby, and between us all we got the mum and baby in their seats – and I had the baby in my arms

Our plane was left waiting on the tarmac for along time before we took off which gave me time to calm the cute little baby. She fell into a deep sleep in my arms, much to the relief of her mum.   With the delay, the flight attendant came by and asked “Did I want to hold the baby whilst we took off”, and I thought, “Sure, I can do that.”

To cut a long story short, I ended up holding the little baby for almost the entire flight and having a big long chat to the young mother about her life and the challenges she faced and some of the complications that life had thrown her way. As we parted I gave her my contact details, and let her know if she ever got in a bind she could always call me.

Missionaries of Mercy
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we are all called to be Missionaries of Mercy. Pope Francis isn’t letting any of us off the hook!  Its important to realise though, that first and foremost,  “acts of mercy” are usually the simple little acts of kindness that we are called to do for the people who live in the world around us.

Mercy and Mission
As well as choosing to be more conscious of those needing mercy in our immediate sphere of influence, Pope Francis reminds us that we must also be aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world – those to whom our acts of mercy actually sustains their lives through provision of food, shelter, education, medical aid, spiritual formation, and community development.

Jesus said, “… go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature…” Mk 16:15, and so go we must, extending the mercy and love of Jesus Christ to all His children through word and deed.

Catholic Mission (known also as the Pontifical Mission Societies) is the Catholic Church’s international agency that supports missionary work in over 160 countries around the world, as well as in remote Indigenous communities here in Australia.   The building of schools and orphanages, delivery of adult training programs, building of seminaries and support of seminarian training are just some of the works of mercy that Catholic Mission is engaged in.

Funds raised in Catholic Mission’s annual Parish Mission Appeal are essential to people like Sr Alma Cabassi who ministers in the remote Aboriginal communities in the Broome Diocese in Western Australia.   Driving thousands of kilometres each year means that Sr Alma needs a reliable vehicle.   It is through the support of generous donors that Catholic Mission ensures she has a roadworthy vehicle and is able to continue her work to those in need.

In recent years, Catholic Mission has established an “Immersions” program that allows participants to make a short mission trip to some of the projects that we support. The purpose of the visit is to experience life,  faith and justice from a new perspective and so return home inspired to live more richly a personal sense of ‘mission and mercy’ in our own community.

St Francis Xavier College, Florey is one of the Catholic schools in our Archdiocese who have participated in a Catholic Mission Immersion trip. Now in its third year,  the Immersion to Warralonga Aboriginal Community in the Pilbara region of WA,  has become not just another addition to the school’s extra-curricular program, but a transformative connection that has profoundly impacted the individuals who have attended the Immersion, (read Chloe and Andrew’s stories on this page)  and the whole school community.

Missionaries of mercy: young and old, incarnating the love of Christ through simple acts of mercy to those around us and to the Body of Christ afar. This is the challenge Pope Francis has put before us.

As we reflect on our response to this Jubilee Year of Mercy let us be guided by the wise words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who says:

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us respond to the call to be Missionaries of Mercy by incarnating – making human and real – the merciful love of God, in our daily lives and by standing in solidarity with all humanity through the missionary works of the Church.

Warra Day 10 & 11 (142)