TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland opened the Door of Mercy in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler on Tuesday to inaugurate the Year of Mercy.

The Holy Year proclaimed by Pope Francis began Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and continues through Nov. 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.

Bishop Strickland was main celebrant and homilist at the Mass celebrating the solemnity and marking the start of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Tyler.

It is fitting that Pope Francis chose the Marian feast to open the Year of Mercy, the bishop said.

“Mary is the first disciple who is anything but short-sighted,” he said. “She had to have the vision by the grace of God, the faith, to say yes to the will of God as her son would 33 years later, and as all of us are called to do.”

The bishop said it is often easy to question whether God’s mercy exists. He pointed to the large stained glass window behind the cathedral’s altar, a depiction of Christ in the garden the night before his crucifixion, as an example.

The window, he said, captures the moment “where the Son of God is asking his Father for mercy, asking, ‘Father, that this cup may pass me by, yet not my will but yours.’ The Lord of mercy in this beautiful window in this beautiful moment tells us what a day, a year, a millennium of mercy is about: to focus, ultimately, on the will of God.”

Reflecting on that moment, and on all that came after, Bishop Strickland said, “we might initially say, well, the Father wasn’t merciful to his Son. He allowed him to die on a cross.

“But his Son, the Lord of Mercy, mercy incarnate, models for us that that is short-sighted,” Bishop Strickland said.

He referred to his own impaired vision.

“I’m what they call near-sighted,” he said. “I need some pretty powerful contacts. But we’re all, in a very real sense, short-sighted by our own human reality. And even the Son of God shows a glimpse of that, because he is really human and really divine, in all the mystery that entails, kneeling in the garden, and asking, ‘Just possibly, Father, in your mercy, could this cup pass me by?’ But because our Lord and Savior is never really as short-sighted as we are, he knew that he must seek the Father’s will.”

That short-sightedness is as old as humanity itself, Bishop Strickland said. He referenced the liturgy’s Old Testament reading from the Book of Genesis, recounting the fall of Adam and Eve.

“Adam and Eve blew it because they were short-sighted,” he said. “Every one of us here, even these beautiful children, are short-sighted as well. It’s part of our reality. We only see a little way down the road.

“How many of us have offered prayers similar to our Savior’s, saying let this cup of illness or this cup of a job slipping through my fingers, a relationship breaking down, an anger that I can’t let go of, let this cup pass me by?” he asked. “And once again, in our short-sightedness, we can have the idea that the Father isn’t listening, that mercy isn’t ours.”

Yet as Christ himself did in the Garden, the bishop said, we must remember “the long story,” must try to see with “the sight that is the Father’s” and try to understand God’s plan. “We must say, as we will pray again in a few minutes in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy will be done.’

“And what is the Father’s will? That we know his everlasting life. And in that context, his apparent denial of his Son’s request opens for all time the gates of mercy, allowing us to know our destiny, and giving us over and over again the opportunity not to be short-sighted but to have the vision that a young man of Nazareth had.”

Throughout his homily, Bishop Strickland held his crozier, which is not his usual habit yet which he said was deliberate.

The crozier is one symbol of a bishop’s authority, the shepherd’s staff. In his homily, however, Bishop Strickland likened the crozier to the rudder of a ship. “I have been called (as bishop) to take the helm of the Church of Tyler,” he said, asking those present to “pray for me.”

But, he added, “we need to pray for each other. Yes, I’m called to take the helm, to hold the rudder. But all of us must cooperate and be those ministers of mercy we’re called to be from our baptism. So we pray for vocations. We live out our vocations with joy. We show up for holy days of obligation. Because our world needs mercy. And all of us here will be stronger ministers of mercy because we are here at this liturgy, at the beginning of the holy Year of Mercy. We are reminded that seeking the will of the Father is ultimately what mercy is.

“We will hear much about mercy in the coming months, but let us always return to that truth, that real mercy is strong, real mercy is powerful, real mercy is Christ at work in our lives.”

Pope Francis said the Holy Year is a time to experience “the sweet and gentle touch” of God’s forgiveness and his presence in difficult times.

Bishop Strickland urged those at the Mass opening the Jubilee Year to avail themselves of that touch.

“I encourage you, and the burdens you carry in your heart right now, to pray for the Lord’s mercy during this liturgy, believing and knowing that his consolation and his strength do come to us, as they did to Christ in the garden,” he said. “The Father strengthened him to do his will, and to ultimately allow that mercy to touch all our lives.

“As we begin this year of mercy, let us rejoice in the opportunity to embrace the Lord of Mercy, to be inspired over and over again by the Virgin Mary.” It is Mary, Bishop Strickland said, “who models for us what real mercy is about: seeking the will of the Father and rejoicing in magnifying the Lord, that his will might be fulfilled in everlasting life beyond our imagining.”

He again turned to the window behind the altar, and to the moment it captures.

“I encourage you to call to mind the image of Christ, God’s own son, pleading for mercy,” the bishop said. “And let us remind ourselves that, in the long-sighted will of the Father, that mercy is ultimately granted, for his Son and for the world. Keep the image of the crozier (in mind), because, in a very real sense, you all assist me and the Holy Father and all who are called to guide the church. We cannot guide the church without your faith, without your strength.

“So let us pray for and celebrate mercy together,” Bishop Strickland urged. “And let this be a year of great blessing.”

For more on the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Tyler, visit www.dioceseoftyler.org/mercy.

TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland will open the Year of Mercy, which will run through November, with the opening of the Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at 6 p.m. Mass will follow in the Cathedral.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated Dec. 8, is a holy day of obligation. Churches in the Diocese of Tyler have scheduled Masses to celebrate the feast. Please see your church’s bulletin or website for details.

The chancery will be closed for this holy day.

Churches and parish organizations throughout the Diocese of Tyler have scheduled services and events for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Among them are:

Tyler, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Dec. 8 with Masses at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. (All Schools Mass), 12:05 p.m. at the Cathedral and Chapel, 6 p.m. at the Cathedral and 7 p.m. (Spanish) at the Chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul. At the 6 p.m. Mass, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland will open the cathedral’s Holy Door to begin the Year of Mercy and will celebrate Mass for the feast day. The Cathedral and Chapel choirs will present Advent Lessons and Carols Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated Dec. 11-12 with a procession at 7 p.m. followed by prayer until the singing of las mañanitas at 5 a.m. Bishop Strickland will celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m., followed by food and a fiesta. Michael Cumble will present an Advent parish mission Dec. 14-16 in the Cathedral at 7 p.m. each evening. St. Gregory Cathedral School students will present a Christmas concert with the Cathedral strings and choir Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. in the Cathedral. An Advent penance service will be held Dec. 16, with multiple priests available for confession. Posadas will be Dec. 16-23, beginning at 7 p.m. each evening, with a procession around the Cathedral campus while praying the rosary.

Christmas Masses for the Cathedral are: Dec. 24, vigil Mass for the Nativity of Our Lord, 5 p.m., with Children’s Pageant; 7 p.m. (beginning with carols at 6:30 p.m.); 9 p.m. in Spanish; midnight (beginning with carols at 11:30 p.m.). Dec. 25, Mass for the Nativity of Our Lord, 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. in Spanish. Vigil for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, Dec. 31, 7 p.m. in Spanish. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Spanish.

Christmas Masses for the Chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul: Dec. 24, 6 p.m., with Children’s Pageant; 9 p.m. Dec. 25, 9 a.m. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. Dec. 31 6 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, 9 a.m.

Athens, St. Edward Church. An Advent penance service will be held Dec. 15, 6-8 p.m. Christmas Eve Masses will be 6 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish) and midnight. A bilingual Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Christmas Day. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be celebrated Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Spanish). The Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Jan. 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Buffalo, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church. Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. (bilingual). The parish will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 with las mañanitas at 8 a.m., a bilingual Mass at 9 a.m., and snacks and traditional danzas at 10 a.m.

Chireno, Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The parish Christmas party and auction will be Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. in the parish hall. The Christmas vigil Mass will be Dec. 24, with carols starting at 5:45 p.m. and Mass at 6:15 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m., with carols at 7:30 a.m. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 6:15 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be Jan. 1 at 8 a.m.

Emory, St. John the Evangelist Church. Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Spanish). The parish will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 with las mañanitas at 5:30 a.m., danzas at 1 p.m. and Mass at 2 p.m. An Advent penance service will be Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. Students in faith formation classes will present The Nativity following the penance service. A Christmas novena will be prayed Dec. 16-24. The parish Christmas dinner will be Christmas Day at 2 p.m.

Frankston, St. Charles Borromeo Church. Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be Dec. 8 at 8 a.m. The Helping Hands Food Pantry will be open Dec. 10, 9-11:30 a.m., to distribute food and some clothing. An Advent penance service will be Dec. 16 at 6 p.m., with priests available for confessions in English and Spanish. Christmas Eve Mass will begin with a choir concert at 6:30 p.m. and Mass at 7 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be at 9 a.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Jan. 1 at 9 a.m.

Hemphill, St. Pius I Church. Advent confessions are available Dec. 16, 5 p.m., for CCD students, and Dec. 18, 10:30 a.m. Christmas Eve Masses will be 5 p.m. and midnight. Christmas Day Mass is at 10:30 a.m. The vigil Mass for the Somenity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be Jan. 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Jefferson, Immaculate Conception Church. Masses for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation and the parish feast day, will be celebrated at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. A potluck dinner in the parish hall will follow the 5:30 p.m. Mass. The church will be part of the Jefferson Candlelight Tours Dec. 10, 3-7 p.m., and Dec. 11, 5-9 p.m. The church and parish hall will be open. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated Dec. 12 with Mass at 10 a.m., followed by a Mexican brunch in the parish hall. The parish Advent penance service will be Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. The children’s Christmas program will be Dec. 20 at 10:30 a.m. in the social hall, followed by a potluck lunch. Christmas Eve Masses will be celebrated at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., with carols at 7:30 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be celebrated Dec. 31 at 5:30 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Jan. 1 at 9 a.m., followed by benediction and adoration until 11 a.m. The parish Christmas fish fry will be Jan. 7, 5-6:30 p.m., followed by a parish-wide “Where We Are as a Parish” meeting at 7 p.m.

Lindale, Holy Family Church. Christmas Eve Masses are at 5 p.m. and midnight, with caroling at 11:15 p.m. Christmas Day Masses are at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (Spanish). The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. Masses for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (Spanish).

Longview, St. Mary Church. Mass will be celebrated for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, Dec. 8 at 7 a.m.; 8 a.m.; 12:05 p.m.; and 6:30 p.m. An Advent parish luncheon will be held Dec. 13 at 12:30 p.m. Bring unwrapped gifts to donate to the Adopt a Family program. The gifts and Knights of Columbus food boxes will be distributed to families in need Dec. 18 and 19. An Advent reconciliation service will be held Dec. 17, 6:30-8 p.m. Masses will be celebrated Christmas Eve at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and midnight. Mass will be celebrated Christmas Day at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Longview, St. Matthew Church. The VIP social and Christmas party is Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. in the parish hall. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated all day Dec. 12, beginning with mariachis at 2 a.m. and ending at 6:30 p.m. Posadas begin Dec. 16 after faith formation and run through Dec. 24. The Altar Society will decorate the church Dec. 18, beginning at 11 a.m. The children’s Christmas party is Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. in the St. John Paul II Center. Priests will be available for confessions by appointment Dec. 21-23. Christmas Eve Masses will be celebrated at 4 p.m. (children’s); 6 p.m. (youth); 8 p.m. (Spanish); midnight, with carols at 11:30 p.m. Christmas Day Masses will be celebrated at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. (Spanish). Vigil Masses for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be celebrated Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Spanish), with benediction at 11:30 p.m. followed by Mass. The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Jan. 1 with Masses at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Spanish).

Madisonville, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. The parish will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 with a Spanish Mass and fiesta, beginning at 7:30 p.m. An Advent penance service will be Dec. 13, 4-6 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be at 9:30 a.m. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 31. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 1.

Marshall, St. Joseph Church. The celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will begin at 4 a.m. Dec. 12 with las mañanitas, followed by breakfast in the parish hall. Mass in Spanish will be at 7 p.m. The Catholic Daughters of the Americas Christmas party will be Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. The St. Joseph School Christmas program will be Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. The Knights of Columbus Christmas party will be Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. in the KC Hall. Bring the kids to see Santa. Christmas Eve Mass times are 4:30 p.m., carols, followed by Mass at 5 p.m. Midnight Mass begins with carols at 11:30 p.m.. Christmas Day Masses are 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Spanish). The parish will host the community-wide Christmas party Dec. 25, noon-2 p.m. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. Masses for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Spanish).

Moral, Immaculate Conception Church. Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be Dec. 8 at 6 p.m., followed by the parish Christmas party. The Christmas vigil Mass will be Dec. 24 at 4:15 p.m. Christmas Day Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 4:15 p.m. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be Jan. 1 at 10:30 a.m.

San Augustine, St. Augustine Church. Confessions in Spanish will be Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated with Mass at 5 p.m. Dec. 12, followed by a procession to the rodeo arena. Confessions in English will be Dec. 18, 9-10 a.m. Christmas Eve Mass will be at 5 p.m. Christmas Day Masses will be at 8″30 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Spanish). The vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. (Spanish). Masses for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be Jan. 1 at 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Spanish).

Texarkana, Sacred Heart Church. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Dec. 8 with Mass at 12:05 p.m. and 6 p.m., with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, reconciliation and benediction at 8 p.m. The parish will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 with las mañanitas at 5 a.m., followed by danzantes y desayuno, and a procession at 11:30 a.m., followed by Mass, a meal and matachine dancers. An Advent penance service will be Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m., with guest priests available for confessions. Carolers will go to the Whispering Pines Assisted Living Facility Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. Middle and high school youth are invited to participate. Rehearsals for the children’s Nativity program will be Dec. 17 and 21 at 5:30 p.m. The children will present the program at 5 p.m. Mass Dec. 24. Midnight Mass will begin with sacred music at 11:30 p.m., and a reception will follow Mass in the parish center. Mass will be celebrated Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Christmas dinner at noon, and at 12:30 p.m. in Spanish. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God will be celebrated Dec. 31 at 6 p.m., followed by a reception afterward. Bring your favorite hors d’oeuvre. Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation, will be celebrated Jan. 1 with Mass at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in Spanish.

On the occasion of the third anniversary of his elevation to the episcopate, which occurred on November 28, 2012, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has offered this reflection.

As I celebrate my third anniversary as Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, I continue to be in awe of the call I have been given.  It goes without saying that I will never be worthy to be your apostle but I do take this call to heart in a powerful way.  I am deeply grateful for the wonderful support of the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of the diocese.  I believe we have taken some significant steps in regard to the mission of Our Lord among us, but of course there is always much more to be done.

As I speak of taking this daunting call to heart, my reflection moves to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.  My earliest memories include images of the Sacred Heart and you may remember that I dedicated my episcopacy to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart if Mary.  I deeply believe that this dedication was inspired by the Holy Spirit and any good I have done in these three years has been inspired and guided by these Holy Hearts.

There are numerous writings regarding these Hearts, from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to several popes including Pope Leo XIII who consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart. These writings and mystical reflections are beautiful and valuable for deepening our faith.  I tend to go back to the image of Mary at the foot of the cross of her divine Son.  This scene depicts the Divine Heart of Christ and the sinless human heart of Mary engaged in the saving mystery of salvation that continues to reverberate through the world.  It is the scene of love, the greatest power in the world, offering hope to humanity for all time.

On a personal note, I want to share with you some simple prayers that have become part of the rhythm of my life:  “O Sacred Heart of Jesus I place my trust in thee.”  “O Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.” “Immaculate Heart of Mary I ask you pray for me”  I offer these simple prayers in the car, in the office, on a plane and on a run, basically anywhere I am.  I share them with you with the hope they might become a blessing for you as they have been for me.

Let us pray that these Holy Hearts will guide me as your bishop and guide the mission of the diocese for many years to come.

– Bishop Strickland

The Texas Catholic Bishops encourage all parties—including governmental leaders, political officials, and advocates—to avoid impulsive judgments in setting public policies regarding the placement of Syrian refugees.  The horrors of modern terrorism are frightening, but they demand from us a strong renewal of our faith and our commitment to Christian teachings and the common good.

We firmly believe that it is possible to maintain security at home while also welcoming refugees.  The Bible abounds with calls for us to demonstrate hospitality to those in need. In Romans 12:13, we are told that Christians should “extend hospitality to strangers.” Christ himself expressed praise and appreciation to those who expressed compassion, for “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:31-46).

Our Catholic refugee agencies will continue to resettle refugees in the United States in accordance with our existing agreements and federal law. All cases will be handled in the same manner in which they have been handled in the past, and in agreement with established guidelines, which include sharing information with state and local stakeholders.

At the same time, we remain open to working with government agencies to ensure strenuous measures that assure public safety and security to legitimate refugees needing assistance, but in a way that balances our concerns and commitments to mercy and compassion.

– Texas Catholic Conference

Joseph Edward Strickland
By the Grace of God and the Apostolic See
Bishop of Tyler

TO THE CLERGY, RELIGIOUS & CATHOLIC FAITHFUL OF THE DIOCESE OF TYLER,
HEALTH AND BENEDICTION

Jesus Christ, True Mercy

This Sunday we begin the holy season of Advent and with it our solemn preparations for Christmas when we welcome our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnation and true face of the Father’s mercy. We also make ourselves ready to enter the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a time in the life of the Church declared by Pope Francis to encourage us to contemplate the mystery of mercy as a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. The Holy Year will begin on December 8, 2015 and conclude on November 20, 2016. Bearing in mind these two events, I would like to take a moment to share this reflection on mercy and how it is incorporated into our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, and specifically as Catholics.

We live in the Age of Mercy because we live in the world after the saving work, the Paschal Mystery, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In this context I believe we can say that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ Himself, exists as an instrument of mercy, a house of mercy, and a place from which the mercy of God should always flow.  We see the foundation of mercy in the oft quoted and beautiful Gospel verse of John 3:16: the Father’s preeminent act of mercy was to share with humanity His only begotten Son.  Embedded in this profoundly loving act of the Father is an acknowledgment that humanity was broken and deeply in need of a savior, deeply in need of mercy.  The mercy which Jesus Christ offers to the world through His Church is hard-won, not only through his passion, death and resurrection, but truly through every moment of his time on earth as the God-Man.  I believe placing mercy in this context is essential if we desire to pursue true mercy in the way we live.

True mercy always flows from God’s love and directs us toward God’s will for us – that we share His gift of everlasting life.  This focus regarding mercy is essential because we are so easily tempted to move toward a superficial understanding and application of mercy that is actually not mercy at all.

In our modern culture, mercy is too often equated with “being nice” or “being soft.” Rather, if we return to the foundation of true mercy mentioned above, the mercy rooted in God’s will, which is love and mercy itself, we find that mercy is actually anything but soft.  Real mercy is strong and powerful because it does not shy away from our broken existence, but instead it stands face to face with the ugly and the broken and calls us to turn away from those things by bringing the healing balm of truth and genuine freedom to bear. True mercy is transformational! Ultimately mercy is bound up with facing the truth and being challenged to move from brokenness to wholeness. The denial of this is possibly at the very heart of our modern dilemma.  Too often mercy is interpreted as removing the challenge, being tolerant of the transgression and passing over the consequences of our broken reality, rather than facing it head on and being freed by that very confrontation.

Once again I cannot resist returning to the model of mercy that is the life of Jesus Christ.  In the ultimate act of mercy, He embraces the cross in order to open the floodgates of mercy. In the same way, any authentic mercy demands that we hold the cross close as well. If we ignore the only authentic model of mercy we are at risk of promoting a false mercy which leads us away from life and ultimately abandons us to death. The mercy that Christ shows the world through every act of His life here on earth, and especially in His crucifixion, is a mercy that faces down the power of sin by allowing the power of love to overcome the darkness. In this way, the grace of God not only covers our sins, but it transforms us in Christ’s image.

Through the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I pray that this Jubilee Year may have a profound effect on the human family by allowing us to live more deeply in the Gospel message of the author and face of mercy, Jesus Christ.

Given at the Diocesan Chancery on November 21, 2015,
the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

——

Joseph Edward Strickland
Por la Gracia de Dios y la Sede Apostólica
Obispo de Tyler

AL CLERO, RELIGIOSOS Y FIELES CATOLICOS DE LA DIÓCESIS DE TYLER,
SALUD Y BENDICIÓN

Jesucristo, Verdadera Misericordia

Este domingo comenzamos con el santo tiempo de Adviento y con él, nuestras preparaciones solemnes para la Navidad cuando le damos la bienvenida a nuestro Señor Jesucristo, la encarnación y el verdadero rostro de la misericordia del Padre. También nos disponemos a entrar al Jubileo Extraordinario de la Misericordia, un tiempo en la vida de la Iglesia decretado por el Papa Francisco para animarnos a contemplar el misterio de la misericordia como también el manantial de gozo, serenidad y paz. El Año Santo comenzará el 8 de diciembre de 2015 y concluirá el 20 de noviembre de 2016. Teniendo en cuenta estos dos eventos, me gustaría tomar un momento para compartir esta reflexión acerca de la misericordia y como es incorporada en nuestras vidas como discípulos de Jesucristo y específicamente como católicos.

Vivimos en la Era de la Misericordia porque vivimos en el mundo después de la obra salvadora—el Misterio Pascual—de Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios. En este contexto creo que podemos decir que la Iglesia Católica, fundada por Cristo mismo, existe como un instrumento de misericordia, una casa de misericordia, y un lugar desde el cual la misericordia de Dios siempre debe fluir. Vemos el fundamento de la misericordia en el hermoso y frecuentemente citado versículo del Evangelio de Juan 3:16: el acto preeminente de la misericordia del Padre fue compartir con la humanidad su Hijo unigénito. Incrustado en este profundo acto de amor del Padre, está el reconocimiento de que la humanidad estaba quebrantada y en profunda necesidad de un salvador, en profunda necesidad de misericordia. La misericordia que Jesucristo ofrece al mundo a través de su Iglesia fue ganada a duras penas, no solo por su Pasión, Muerte y Resurrección, pero verdaderamente a través de cada momento de su tiempo en la tierra como el Dios-Hombre. Creo que colocar la misericordia en este contexto es esencial si deseamos seguir la senda de la verdadera misericordia en el modo en que vivimos.

La verdadera misericordia siempre fluye del amor de Dios y nos dirige hacia la voluntad de Dios para nosotros—que compartamos su regalo de vida eterna. Este enfoque acerca de la misericordia es esencial porque somos muy fácilmente tentados a aceptar un entendimiento y aplicación superficial de la misericordia que en verdad no es misericordia en absoluto.

En nuestra cultura moderna, la misericordia muy frecuentemente se iguala a ser amable (“nice”) o a ser blando. Pero si retornamos al fundamento de la verdadera misericordia mencionada arriba, la misericordia que está enraizada en la voluntad de Dios, que es amor y misericordia misma, nos damos cuenta que la misericordia es todo menos blanda. La verdadera misericordia es fuerte y poderosa porque no se acobarda de nuestra existencia quebrantada, más bien se para cara a cara con lo feo y lo quebrantado y nos llama a rechazar esas cosas trayendo el bálsamo sanador de la verdad y llevando la libertad genuina. ¡La verdadera misericordia es transformativa! A la larga, la misericordia no puede hacer otra cosa sino enfrentar la verdad y uno es desafiado a moverse del quebranto a la integridad. Posiblemente, la negación de esto posiblemente se encuentra en el corazón de nuestro dilema moderno. Con demasiada frecuencia la misericordia es interpretada como quitar los retos, ser tolerante de la transgresión e ignorar las consecuencias de nuestra realidad quebrantada, en vez de enfrentarla claramente y ser liberados por esa misma confrontación.

Nuevamente, no puedo evitar regresar al modelo de misericordia que es la vida misma de Jesucristo. En su último acto de misericordia, él abrazó la cruz con el propósito de abrir las compuertas de la misericordia. De igual modo, cualquier autentica misericordia exige que nos abracemos a la cruz también. Si ignoramos el único modelo auténtico de misericordia nos arriesgamos a promover una misericordia falsa que nos conduce lejos de la vida y al final nos abandona a la muerte. La misericordia que Cristo le muestra al mundo a través de cada acto de su vida aquí en la tierra, y especialmente su Crucifixión, es una misericordia que confronta el poder del pecado haciendo que el poder del amor venza la oscuridad. De este modo, la gracia de Dios no solo cubre nuestros pecados, sino que nos transforma a la imagen de Cristo.

Por la intercesión de la Madre de la Misericordia, ruego que este Año Jubilar tenga un profundo efecto en la familia humana permitiéndonos vivir más profundamente en el mensaje evangélico del autor y rostro de la misericordia, Jesucristo.

Dado en la Cancillería Diocesana el 21 de noviembre de 2015,
Memoria de la Presentación de la Bendita Virgen María.