One sinner showing another sinner how to encounter God’s mercy
February 26, 2018
As you have probably seen, Where Peter Is has focused quite a bit on “papal apologetics,” that is, defending the Holy Father and his teachings from his critics. However, in my mind, the defense of the pope is simply the means to a greater end: loving the pope. In other words, we want to give thoughtful answers to people’s concerns about the Holy Father so that they can trust the pope more and be able to hear the wonderful things he says, because he really does say wonderful things. As I’ve said before, Pope Francis has inspired and challenged me, both in my personal life and in my professional ministry. I would like to share with you one of his teachings that I’ve found the most beautiful.
During the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016, Pope Francis released a book titled, “The Name of God is Mercy.” I read it three times over the course of a year. The book is the transcript of a long interview the Holy Father did with the Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli about the Year of Mercy. I wanted to share one particularly powerful passage and give some comments on it.
This teaching comes from the chapter titled, “Shepherds, not Scholars of the Law.” Pope Francis says:
“We need to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers live. We need to be able to make contact with them and let them feel our closeness, without letting ourselves be wrapped up in that darkness and influenced by it. Caring for outcasts and sinners does not mean letting the wolves attack the flock. It means trying to reach everyone by sharing the experience of mercy, which we ourselves have experienced, without ever caving in to the temptation of feeling that we are just or perfect.”
While he doesn’t use the word “evangelization,” I think that is precisely what the pope is talking about here. I’ve heard it said that evangelization is one beggar showing another beggar where the bread is. Likewise, I think Pope Francis would say that evangelization is one sinner showing another sinner how to encounter God’s mercy. What’s cool about thinking of evangelization this way is that it’s not complicated and it certainly doesn’t require a theology degree. How have you experienced God’s mercy in your life? How has God saved you from your own sin and suffering? Have you ever shared this story with anyone?