Living the Mercy of Christ
The blessings of Easter be with you! It is the season of joy. When Jesus rose from the dead, He opened for each of us the promise of eternal life. God shows us His great love and infinite mercy. May the blessings of this beautiful season lift you up and renew you in hope.
In speaking of this season of hope, Pope Francis reminds us that it is a gift of God’s love. “God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one that supports us, lifts us up, and leads us on.” For Pope Francis, this love of God is a powerful manifestation of God’s mercy. Even though, at times, we fail to be the disciples that we are called to be, God forgives us, extends a hand of mercy, and sends us on our way. Easter is a manifestation of the love of God which is founded in His mercy.
On the day in which he marked his second anniversary as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis announced his intention to call a Jubilee Year to deepen our appreciation of the mercy of God. This Holy Year is intended to deepen within ourselves the words of Jesus: “Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.” In Catholic tradition, a Jubilee Year has great spiritual and pastoral significance. Beyond the traditional pilgrimage to Rome to visit the holy places, a Holy Year provides the opportunity for Catholics to renew their relationship with God. In this case, what Pope Francis wants to celebrate is our faith that God is Mercy. As well, however, a Jubilee in the Church is an opportunity to renew a relationship with my neighbor. Thus, even as the Holy Year is an opportunity to deepen one’s faith, it is also an occasion to live with a renewed commitment to Christian witness. Perhaps, there was an anticipation of this announcement of a Jubilee Year in Pope Francis’ words at the New Year: “This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”
This edition of Harvest includes reports on the good work that is done in our diocese through the Catholic Appeal. The appeal has been very successful this year. Thank you for your generosity. We have met and surpassed our goal. The number of donations increased this year. That represents wonderful support for this important effort. I am so grateful to the leadership of our priests, who with their parish staffs, have made the success of the appeal a priority. With such wonderful cooperation, the good work of the Church can continue and grow.
Pope Francis reminds us that mercy is the beginning of Christian witness. We know that God loves us out of his mercy. In our gratitude, we try to become witnesses of mercy in our care for one another. That is certainly what I have seen in the efforts supported in some manner by the Catholic Appeal as I travel around the diocese. At Thanksgiving time, for example, I visited the Catholic Charities Food Bank in Caribou. Throughout the year, not just at the holidays, this valuable resource works to provide for the food pantries of Aroostook County. In my visits to hospitals, I am always gratified to hear of the good service given by our chaplains and those who assist them in bringing God’s care to those who are sick. I spent a delightful morning at the St. Louis Child Development Center in Biddeford. There, Catholic Charities provides care for children of the area in a nurturing, loving environment. The Catholic Charities’ Parish Social Ministry program, which has expanded over the last year, is a wonderful effort to involve all Catholics in the corporate witness of providing for the needs of neighbor. This effort educates parishioners not only on their responsibility but also their ability to make a difference and live out their baptismal call to serve one another. All of these efforts would never be heard about but for the work of our Communications Office which makes known the many things that are happening in our Church here in Maine. Our schools are educating Catholic leaders for the future. Our parishes are strengthening the faith life of our good people. Letting people know about the good things that are happening will help to lead them to the joy of the Gospel, which is always the purpose of our activity.
Thank you all, then, for your generosity to the Catholic Appeal this year. As we make this report to you of how your generosity was put to work, we come again to appeal for the next year. We ask you to prayerfully consider how you can help support the Church in Maine in bringing God’s love and mercy into our part of the world. It will prepare us for the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Most Rev. Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D.
12th Bishop of Portland