Pope Francis writes in the Joy of Love that he wishes to encourage everyone to be a “…sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy.” (AL5)
So how do we respond to this call? And how do we reflect the attitude of Jesus who sets out a demanding ideal, yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of others? [AL38]
For Pope Francis urges us to rediscover the meaning and importance of Mercy, which is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. (MV2) For mercy is at the very foundation of the Church’s life (MV10) and fundamental to Jesus’ mission. (MV20)
But as we know, showing mercy is far from easy, especially when faced with the challenging realities found in family life. What do we do with those who cause immense harm to themselves and to others, where all attempts to help them have simply failed? Surely, there seems to be only one logical course of action?
But when we consider the severe stresses and strains found in our world today, that put huge pressures on relationships, marriages and families, we can see that all these problems belong to a wider context.
For many families are constantly worried about job security, money, the future of their children, which means that they are simply not present (AL50) to others, which can bring tensions to relationships and tear at the fabric of family life.
And as the world gets faster in all aspects of our lives, parents can come home exhausted after work, not wanting to talk. And where families don’t even share a common meal, relationships can be strained by an addiction to television and other distractions.
And it is these stresses which can lead to the many addictions that can cause great harm to individuals as well as others. (AL50) Addictions such as gambling, drugs and alcohol can be the cause of immense suffering and result in family breakups. And where there is no family to support those suffering from addiction, this can lead people to make a shipwreck of their lives. (AL51)
But rather than condemn, Pope Francis calls us to show mercy, to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters, calling us all to bring hope to those who have lost their way, or are in the midst of a storm. (AL291)
For just as the Church is a sign of God’s love in the world today, (MV4) a beacon to enlighten those who have lost their way (AL291), we too are called to be a sign of God’s love. So that wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy. (MV12) For Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope. (MV10)
And Pope Francis urges the larger family, which is made up of the wider community of family, relatives and friends, (AL196) to provide love and support to others in need.
Especially those who are alone including the unmarried, separated, widowed, elderly and infirm.
Children without parents, teenage mothers, single parents.
As well as people with disabilities, young people struggling with addiction.
When we reach out to everyone, we can help others to be part of a community and experience the unconditional and free gift of Mercy. (AL297) For merciful love is always ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope and above all integrate. (AL312)
For love bears fruit in mercy and forgiveness (AL27) and Mercy is the heart of God. (Pope Francis December 8, 2015, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception)
AL – Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)
MV – Misericordiae Vultus (Bull of indiction of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)