Fr Tim Cullinane SMA, recently returned from Nigeria after 52 years of missionary life, is preaching a Lenten retreat at St Joseph’s SMA parish, Blackrock Road, Cork.
Originally from Brosna, Co Kerry, it was natural for Fr Tim to refer to recent political events at the start of his homily: ‘The Healy-Raes are noted for many good things in Kerry, including the filling in of potholes. Lent is a time for us to fix the spiritual potholes in our lives.’
At this season God is inviting us to turn back to Him, to turn away from sin. We all realise that we do not love God or others as we should. We are sinners! But as Pope Francis recently said in answer to the question: “who are you? who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The Pope paused and then, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate description… I am a sinner. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And God looks upon each one of us gathered here this evening.
And on another occasion the Pope spoke of the need for the Church to move from judging people to healing them: “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!”
Mercy is a theme very close to the Pope’s heart. We are now well into the Jubilee Year of Mercy which the Pope inaugurated in 2015. For him, Jesus is the face of God’s mercy. On the Cross of Calvary Jesus asks God to forgive his executioners: ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ and he also promises the good thief that he will join him in Paradise. There are many other examples in the Gospels of the mercy which Jesus has for even the greatest of sinners. He does not condemn the woman caught in adultery; No! ‘Neither do I condemn you, go, and do not sin again’.
So what is this saying to us? As we seek God’s mercy and forgiveness so too we must be forgiving and merciful. We must not be like the Pharisees, full of righteousness and judgemental of others.
We are called to go through the Holy Door of Mercy and this we can do through the sacrament of Reconciliation [also called Confession or Penance]. Pope Francis says, “to pass through the Holy door is to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter them. The door of Mercy is already open. The door is Jesus Himself. [I am the door – John 10:9]. Jesus is the door, Jesus is the entrance to salvation just as he was for the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery”, the Prodigal Son, Zaccheus the tax collector, Peter the Apostle.
He is also the door for you…
On Friday, 11 March, at 7.30pm we will have an opportunity to go to confession and be lifted of those past events which weigh us down and rob us of the peace which Christ gives.
Come… you’re welcome!