Mercy

11th Week in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ, in the 4th century, there was a young girl named Mary, who ran away from home; she went to Egypt, we know not why; there she lived a scandalous life of harlotry for 16 years.
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Always ready for the next adventure, she teased sailors to take her aboard a ship headed for Jerusalem. Now at that time, Jerusalem was celebrating the Feast of the Holy Cross, and as thousands were going into the Church, curiosity made her desire to enter. At the door however, she felt herself repelled by an invisible force. Again and again, she could not enter.
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She began to weep, seeing that it was on account of her wicked life that God had repelled her from the church. In that moment she raised her eyes to see a picture of Mary. In her tears she exclaimed, ‘O Mother of God, pity here a poor sinner! You are the refuge of sinners.’ She seemed to hear the Blessed Virgin say: My child, go – enter the church.’
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She was able to enter, and there adored the Relic of the Holy Cross with the others. In gratitude for God’s mercy, she retired to a life of prayer across the Jordan river where she lived as a hermit in the desert for 57 years.
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The famous monk, Zosimus one day met her; he gave her holy Communion, and returned a year later, but she had died. Her body was surrounded by a brilliant light, and written in the sand were the words: Bury my body here, it is that of a poor sinner. A lion came and made a grave with his claws. Zosimus then hurried back to relate to all the wonderful story of St. Mary of Egypt; a sinner who found God’s mercy.
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Friends in Christ, the story of our faith is the story of countless sinners who experienced God’s mercy, and returned to him. In the gospel today, we see another example of this; this woman who had also led a scandalous life, but, wishing to change her ways, she finds that Jesus is offering a new beginning for persons such as herself. She humbles herself before the Lord, and in this, she is different from the others who are there.
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In fact, when the Pharisee questions the woman’s actions, Jesus points out that mercy is shown to those who humble themselves, who give their heart in love of God, not the self-righteous.
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This year, the Church has placed great emphasis on mercy; in fact, it is designated the Year of Mercy. What is this mercy of God? Well, God is pure love – he is infinite, pure love. Love is God’s essential attribute. Bishop Robert Barron says, ‘mercy, is what God’s love looks like, when it turns toward the sinner.’
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It is common today for people to say ‘God is merciful,’ and sometimes they think that God doesn’t mind if we commit sins, that God doesn’t really mind if I live this way, contrary to his law. But this is completely wrong. St. Mary of Egypt only experienced God’s mercy once she had seen the horror of her sinful life, and how it blocked her from God. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet in tears – she only experienced God’s mercy because she recognized her evil life and wished to turn from it.
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People who go through life rationalizing that they are so good never really experience God’s mercy; only the person who knows how serious is their illness, can rejoice when the doctor says, ‘you are cured.’ If you want to meet a happy person, it is the one who knows his sins, and is grateful for God’s mercy.
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Something that modern man badly needs, is Mercy. The gospel of Jesus Christ can liberate us from the burden of guilt that is carried around in these days. Today there is a lot of excusing and justifying of behavior, leaving people with so much guilt crammed into their soul. ‘Who can free me from this guilt?, asks St. Paul.  ‘Only the Lord Jesus, who has died for my sins.
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To speak of mercy is to be keenly aware of the destructiveness and misery of sin. As St. Augustine says, mercy and misery are two sides of the same coin. The more we recognize our misery, the more we appreciate God’s mercy. And the happier we are.
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The Church has declared this to be the year of mercy, and so one thing is, there is an opportunity for a Plenary Indulgence by making a pilgrimage to Rome, to walk through the doors of mercy. Now that is a long trip, and so the Pope has also made it possible to do a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of each diocese, and pass through the Holy Doors. Since we are a huge diocese, 34 other Pilgrimage sites have been established with Doors of Mercy, and our parish is one of them. These are the front doors of the Church.
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People have asked me again, to be reminded of how we do this. So, to obtain the Indulgence, here is what you do:
1. Pass through the Holy Doors, reflecting on the mercy of God.
2. Go to confession within 8 days, before or after.
3. Receive Holy Communion.
4. Pray the Creed, and some prayers for the Pope’s intentions.
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A Plenary indulgence can be obtained for one’s self, or for a person who is in Purgatory. .
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If you have no need of God’s mercy, then none of this would really interest you. But if you are like most of us in need, then let us throw ourselves into the arms of God.
And may the Blessed Virgin intercede for us, in this year of mercy.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Agatha]

 

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