Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!
In Misericordiae Vultus, (“The Face of Mercy,”) the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from Pope Francis, he has given us new seeds, a bright and verdant diagram, a vision of joy, a plan of hope for the renewal of the “oasis of mercy” that is the Church, and of the the living sanctuaries of mercy each of us can become in Christ.
Reading The Face of Mercy, I am reminded of St. Therese discovering that her vocation was love; to be love in the Heart of the Church. St. Therese taught us that this is the underlying vocation of all the various callings in the Lord.
The Holy Father is calling us, now, to be mercy at the heart of the Church.
One of the things that stands out for me in Misericordiae Vultus, is that Pope Francis talks about mercy in a way that shows that one of its primary aspects is deep acceptance and gratuitous love. This accepting love is so powerful that encountering this simple grace of mercy that God plants in us will inspire others to bloom before our eyes, just as we open like flowers before the Lord’s complete and total love.
“Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” ~ Pope Francis
How do we each become an oasis of mercy?
Pope Francis says we should draw our ability to “adopt mercy as our lifestyle” from contemplating the Word of God in silence. What does that do?
I think it does the same thing that sun and rain do in a garden.
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land,and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. (Mark 4:26-27)
How God works in the soul through prayer is a mystery, but it is very simple. We make time to open our hearts to God in stillness every day, and to ponder His Word. In this way we prepare the soil.
St. Faustina says God’s will “is love and mercy itself.” He will sow in us seeds of mercy and love that will grow under His care.
If we are willing to work at His side, we can also expect Him to take out any choking weeds that inhibit us in mercy, to set in order all that needs order, and to allow that which should be left lovely and wild, free to blossom as it should. We can trust the Lord of the garden to shine on whatever is cold and dead, to heal what is damaged, to bring to our attention any work we ourselves have neglected.
When our souls are well nourished by prayer, we can be a quiet place for people to sit, a shade tree of peace surrounded by bright flowers of acceptance and tenderness. Our souls can be cool and and quiet fountains of the gentle healing that comes from God.
The healing nature of my garden can heal the most broken of hearts.” ~ Santa Montefiore
Years ago my brother-in-law, Frank, went to Assisi with his family. This story is about a quiet moment on a busy day, a simple conversation in a shady place. But it has always enchanted me.
Mercy can manifest itself in quiet and unassuming ways; by a simple, accepting presence. Mercy doesn’t push itself on anyone, it invites and makes itself available. It respectfully speaks the language the other can understand, in a conversation with no agenda but that of connection and service, giving the other room to decide for himself. “Come in, if you think it will do you good.”
“[Jesus’] person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously.” ~ Pope Francis
As people who follow Jesus, this is the shape we want our gardens to take: to become oases of gratuitous, accepting love. We want to make room for fragrant, herbaceous borders, for winding paths of compassion and peace, along which we can walk with anyone who comes for refuge.
God will plant in this garden the flowers He likes best to see in it, and we will know the fruit of hospitality of heart.
He’s drawing up His plans, and showing us His ideas, giving us seeds to dream over; about gardens, flowers, fruit, and Spring.
Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” ~ Pope Francis
And the seeds of the Kingdom will be sown, everywhere we go.
“All the broken are mending/The mournful rejoicing/Seeing through tears/Of peace overflowing/And You walk with me/You never leave/You’re making my heart a garden” Matt Maher
*You can read Misericordiae Vultus, (The Face of Mercy) here.
photos and garden by Shawna Manning Marcontel