Friday, August 2, 2013

Pope Francis: Messenger of Divine Mercy

I don't want to become too carried away with Pope-a-palooza, but today is not only Friday, it's a First Friday, which means a day when many Catholics, though not nearly enough, examine their consciences, go to confession, then attend Mass. The point of this is not to seek God's mercy, but to experience it fresh again. It also a day when, typically during the 3 o'clock hour, many Catholics, again, not nearly enough, pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Hence, I want to reference one more time something the Holy Father said during his in-flight press conference on the return trip to Rome from Brazil.

When asked a predictably provocative question by a reporter from Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper concerning the plight of those Catholics who are divorced and remarried and who have not had their previous marriage(s) nullified by the Church, which situation prevents them from licitly receiving the sacraments, Pope Francis spoke of mercy, Divine Mercy, saying, "I believe that this is a kairos, this time is a kairos of mercy. But this intuition came first from John Paul II, when he started with Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy ... he had something, he realized that it was a necessity of this time."

The Greek word καιρός, or, transliterated, kairos, in the general sense means something like "the right moment," "the opportune time." In Christian usage, it means more particularly something like "God's appointed time," or "the time for God's purpose to be fulfilled." The word καιρός is placed on the lips of Jesus at the beginning of St. Mark's Gospel, in verse 15 of the first chapter (a breathtaking verse, which, in the context of Mark, are the first words spoken by the Lord as He emerged from his sojourn in the desert to begin His ministry): "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." The word "time" in the original Greek is καιρός.

I have no idea what the Holy Father has planned in this regard. He seemed to indicate that this particular issue will be something he will discuss with his chosen panel of eight cardinals when they meet at the beginning of October. It was certainly among the issues discussed during the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Eucharist back in 2005. Anyone engaged in pastoral ministry at the parish level can tell you that this is a question that urgently needs to be addressed, even as we recognize the dire need to give witness to the sanctity of marriage, for us married Christians to live out this sacrament in a way that our marriages are visible and tangible signs of Christ's love for and fidelity to His Bride, the Church, to be, in effect, Ephesians 5 Christians.

So, as St. Faustina, who was taught by the Lord, urged us to pray: "Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."

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