The Way of Mercy – endings and beginnings

The encounter with the God of Mercy is not an end in itself, but rather a doorway into a renewed life of being merciful to self and others.
The Cross and Relics journeyed to St Nicholas of Myra Parish at Penrith. Image: supplied.

By Richard McMahon, Catholic Outlook, December 2016

Isn’t it wonderful how often after Jesus offers healing; he invites people to continue on their journey. “Pick up your mat and walk” or “Go, and sin no more.”

The encounter with the God of Mercy is not an end in itself, but rather a doorway into a renewed life of being merciful to self and others. The Eucharist offers the greatest of these gateways, inviting us to be taken up with the gifts of bread and wine, to offer our whole selves, so that we may be broken from our old life and made whole as we are shared with the world through union with Jesus Christ.

Catherine McAuley Westmead joined with Parramatta Marist High, Sacred Heart Primary School and Mother Teresa Primary School in a meaningful and reverent procession with the Cross and Relics. Image: supplied.

A similar experience was shared as we gathered for the closing of the Holy Door in St Patrick’s Cathedral on 13 November 2016, echoing the closing of Holy Doors across the dioceses of the world, before Pope Francis closed the final Holy Door in St Peter’s the following week. Was it an end or a beginning?

One significant approach to the Year of Mercy in our Diocese involved the Way of Mercy. It was a journey of over three months, with a large Cross and Relics of two beloved saints, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and St Teresa of Kolkata.

The Cross and Relics visited every one of our systemic schools and was at the heart of many gatherings of groups of parishes, schools and chaplaincies.

The Way of Mercy extended to hospitals, other Catholic schools, aged care communities, celebrations of migrants and refugees, celebrations of family, of youth, of our catechists, of the environment, and to a prison and retreat centre, all aspects of our life sharing mercy, needing mercy, or both.

The conclusion of the Way of Mercy coincided with the conclusion of the Year of Mercy in our Diocese, marked by the closing of the Holy Door.

Representatives from our parishes, schools, chaplaincies and other centres, gathered on Sunday 13 November to participate in the final movement of the Way of Mercy as it journeyed from Old King’s School to the Cathedral.

While local parish and school communities gathered in the Cathedral for prayer and testimony, the diocesan Mercy representatives attended a final session in the Cathedral hall.

Richard McMahon, Director of Pastoral Planning and Implementation, addressed the group, thanking them and their communities for being ambassadors of mercy, and providing fertile soil for the Holy Spirit to offer the abundant grace of God’s mercy to all who experienced the Cross and Relics.

In particular, the team who had coordinated the Way of Mercy were thanked, including the drivers of the trucks, and those who had liaised with the schools and parishes and other communities throughout the journey.

Very Rev Paul Roberts EV, Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation and Pastoral Planning, then addressed the representatives, again thanking them for their involvement.

A gift of a print depicting Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son on a large canvas was offered to each community by the Institute for Mission, along with a set of reflections for use with the image.

This will be a practical measure for our communities to incorporate into their planning for the coming year, so that the spirit of the Year of Mercy is not lost.

In the Mass that followed, Bishop Vincent Long again encouraged the congregation not to see the closing of the Holy Door as an end to our efforts to be merciful, but rather that through this year, God’s mercy has seeped into our bones and can be carried forth into 2017 and beyond, being faces of God’s mercy to others.

Images, videos and stories of the Way of Mercy can be found at www.mercyhasaface.org.au

Richard McMahon is Director of Pastoral Planning & Implementation in the Diocese of Parramatta.

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