Let 2016 truly be a Year of Mercy Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

I hope and pray that you have enjoyed every blessing of the Christmas Season, and I certainly wish you the very best and I pray for the best for you in this New Year and throughout 2016.

The passage of time is a mysterious thing to us and the future remains unknown, except to our God.

For some, 2016 will be a year of suffering, but that’s hidden from our eyes at the moment. For some it will be a year of great joy or achievement. But, because time is pregnant with Jesus Christ, time is pregnant with our salvation, 2016 cannot fail to be a good year, precisely in the sense that Jesus Christ will continue day-in and day-out, in obvious ways and also in very hidden ways, to work out our salvation. And if that doesn’t make it a good year, I don’t know what would.

Year of Mercy

The year 2016 is also the heart of the Year of Mercy, and in our world that is merciless, we are in tremendous need of mercy.

So, we stand in union with Pope Francis in celebrating this Year of Mercy and in reflecting on mercy.

I want to suggest to you as we begin this new year, that as we go through our liturgical celebrations throughout the year and listen to the Word of God, we should do so from the point of view of mercy.

When we hear the various scriptural passages, we might ask ourselves, is there anyone in the passage being merciless? Is there anyone in the passage showing mercy? Is there anyone in the passage receiving mercy? Every passage shows us a different face of mercy. And just imagine how many different faces there are that the Lord wants to reveal to us in this New Year!

Different faces of mercy

We can look at the readings from the first Sunday of the new year as an example.

From the Gospel passage (Mt 2:1-12) we know that Herod was merciless in that we see him maneuvering towards the death of Jesus. In fact, we know that in the end, when he could not track down Jesus, he ordered the death of the babies, all the first-born, hoping to kill Jesus among the many, many others. In order to get Jesus, the lives of the others didn’t matter at all.

If our excerpt of Matthew’s Gospel were to continue we would see him remind us of the prophesy of Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Mt 2:18, Jer 31:18).”

Herod is merciless. Herod is no saint, but he could be the “patron of the merciless.”

He killed the most helpless and innocent among us, en masse. And why? What drives Herod? He is a merciless man who is into his own power. He hears about a King of the Jews who threatens his own power. He is jealous and envious that there might be another king.

And so, this good news that the Christ is to be born, is not good news for Herod, it is bad news. “When Herod heard about this, he was deeply troubled (Mt 2:3)!” How many people in our world today, when they hear about Jesus Christ, are deeply troubled? They are so deeply troubled that they are trying to make it illegal to say “Jesus Christ” in public! It’s not such a good situation.

Herod was jealous, and so what should have been good news of great joy to the whole world left him deeply troubled and clutching to his own power. And the outcome of that was first that he would lie to the Magi. “Go and find out exactly where he is so that I may worship him,” Herod said. And then how did he round out and bring to completion his own mercilessness? Herod killed the innocents.

So, he was troubled when he should have been joyful; he was jealous for his own people; he was a liar; and in the end, he was a murderer.

Jealousy. Lies. Murder. The attempt to blot the name of Jesus Christ off the face of the earth because people are troubled — this reading is about us and our time! And Herod is alive and well in many different forms. The merciless one!

Trusting and seeking the truth

However, we should take a moment and look at the Magi. The Magi were pagans, and yet somehow, they trusted in God, revealed by a star, even though they couldn’t put it into words. These wise men recognized that there was something beyond themselves that they could not explain, and so they uprooted themselves — just like Abraham went forth in faith at the beginning of Jewish history — and they came across the desert seeking Truth.

They sought to know the Truth, and they sought it with such a determination that they tore up their roots, and they crossed a very dangerous desert. They trusted that God who was revealing Himself in that star to lead them to the Messiah, to take them to the birthplace of our Savior. And because they trusted, God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod, the merciless one, but to change their whole way of life to be transformed in Christ and find another route back home.

The Magi were given the opportunity to be transformed in Christ, so that they might see God’s sublime glory. Mercy was made manifest to them, by their faith. And in receiving mercy they were able to give mercy, to avoid being complicit in Herod’s plot.

The year 2016 is already cut out to be a year when you and I are called not only to see but to enter more deeply into the divine glory of the Messiah. That divine glory will be revealed in every work of mercy, no matter how small. Let the Year of Mercy for us truly be a year of mercy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may you and your loved ones continue to be blessed by Him who is Mercy Incarnate. A Savior is born for us! Come, let us adore Him! Praised be Jesus Christ!