The following homily was given by Fr Herbert Nicholls, Chaplain of the Mother of Light Convent on
February 21st, 2018.
The homily which I share with you today was actually given by Pope Francis at St. Martha’s in 2014. It is near the conclusion of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. The Holy Father begins by setting the example: who am I to judge?
That is the question we must ask ourselves in order to make room for mercy. The Pope goes on to explain: Jesus’ invitation to mercy offers us the way to draw nearer to God our Father, and to become like Him, to be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.
That is not easy to understand, that attitude of mercy. Because in short, we judge. That is our attitude, and we don’t leave any bit of room for understanding and mercy.
In order to be merciful, two attitudes are required. The first is self-knowledge…the first step to becoming merciful is to recognize that we have done so many things wrong. We are sinners. We need to be able to say: Lord have mercy on me a sinner. (The Jesus Prayer rope would be extremely beneficial in this regard).
Recognizing that we have done something harmful or hurtful against the Lord or another human being, and being ashamed before God is a grace. It is the grace of being a sinner in recognition and in repentance.
It is so simple, but at the same time, it is so difficult. Our father, Adam gives us an example not to follow. He blames the woman for eating the fruit; attempting to justify himself saying, I have not sinned….Then Eve in turn does the same, passing blame to the serpent.
The Holy Father continues: It is very important to recognize that we have sinned and are in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We must not make excuses. We must not put the blame on others. Perhaps someone else helped you to sin, led the way, but ultimately you made the choice. It was your free will. This is why we must acknowledge our sin and not seek to hide from God in shame.
The second attitude needed for the grace of mercy is repentance, which enables us to be merciful to others because we have felt God’s mercy within ourselves.
Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer not only to ask for forgiveness for our sins but to pass on to others that same mercy and forgiveness. Using a metaphor from soccer (the Pope is an avid fan) he says: if I do not forgive, than I am not playing by the rules. I am offside.
These two attitudes of self-knowledge rather than denial, and repentance rather than stubbornness helps to expand our hearts. They enable us to let in the grace that makes room for mercy and forgiveness. This expanse of heart broadens our vision so as to see, rather than look at what others have done, but to ask that question: who am I to judge?
Who am I to gossip? Who am I who perhaps have done the same or worse? The Lords says in the Gospel, Do not judge and you will not be judged!
So in order to be merciful, it is necessary to call upon the Lord, because it is a grace. And this is how a merciful man or woman thinks of their own sins.
If someone says to them: Did you see what so and so has done. With mercy they would respond: Yes, but I have done quite a lot of things myself. How about you? This the Pope suggests is the way of mercy. We must acknowledge our need for it. We must desire it, and we must ask for it.
Seek to expand your heart through mercy. Ask the Lord to give you this grace, and always remember it begins by asking myself: who am I to judge?