Saint Josemaria
Quotations from Saint Josemaria

Living Mercy

Tags: Friendship, Understanding, Solidarity, Josemaria Escriva
The Pope’s audiences are specially dedicated to the Year of Mercy. On June 30, he recalled that “It is one thing to speak of mercy, and it is another to live mercy. Paraphrasing the words of St James the Apostle (cf. 2:14-17), we could say: mercy without works is dead within itself. That’s it! What makes mercy come alive is its constant dynamism in order to go and meet those in need and the necessities of those in spiritual and material hardship.”

Below is the full text of the audience on June 30, followed by some quotations from St Josemaria’s writings to help pray about mercy.

The Papal audience of June 30, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Those who have experienced in their own lives the Father’s mercy cannot remain indifferent before the needs of their brothers.
How many times, during these first months of the Jubilee, have we heard about the works of mercy! Today the Lord invites us to make a serious examination of conscience. Indeed, it is good to never forget that mercy is not an abstract word, but it is a way of life: a person can either be merciful or unmerciful; it is a lifestyle. I choose to live in a way that is merciful or I choose to live in a way that is unmerciful. It is one thing to speak of mercy, and it is another to live mercy. Paraphrasing the words of St James the Apostle (cf. James 2:14-17), we could say: mercy without works is dead within itself. That’s it! What makes mercy come alive is its constant dynamism in order to go and meet those in need and the necessities of those in spiritual and material hardship. Mercy has eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to lift up again....

Daily life allows us to touch, with our hands, many demands that concern the poorest and most tested of people. We are asked for that particular attention that leads us to notice the state of suffering and need in which so many brothers and sisters find themselves. Sometimes we pass by situations of dramatic poverty and it seems that they do not touch us; everything continues as if it were nothing, into an indifference that eventually creates hypocrites and, without our realizing it, leads to a form of spiritual lethargy that numbs the soul and renders life barren. People who pass by, who move on in life without noticing the needs of others, without seeing many spiritual and material needs, are people who pass by without living, they are people who do not need others. Remember well: those who do not live to serve, do not serve to live.

There are so many aspects of God’s mercy toward us! In the same way, there are so many faces turned to us in order to obtain mercy. Those who have experienced in their own lives the Father’s mercy cannot remain indifferent before the needs of their brothers. The lesson of Jesus that we have heard does not allow escape routes: I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked, displaced, sick, in prison and you assisted me (Mt 25:35-36). You cannot stonewall a person who is hungry: he must be fed. Jesus tells us this! The works of mercy are not theoretical ideas, but concrete testimonies. They oblige us to roll up our sleeves to alleviate suffering.

Due to changes in our globalized world, certain material and spiritual forms of poverty have multiplied: let us give space, therefore, to the imaginings of charity so as to find new ways of working. In this way, the way of mercy will become more and more concrete. It is necessary therefore, that we remain as vigilant as watchmen, so that, when facing the poverty produced by the culture of wellbeing, the Christian gaze does not weaken and become incapable of focusing on what is essential. Focus on the essentials. What does this mean? To focus on Jesus, to see Jesus in the hungry, in prisoners, in the sick, the naked, in those who don’t have work and need to lead their family forward. To see Jesus in these people, our brothers and sisters; to see Jesus in those who are lonely, sad, in those who have made mistakes and need counsel, in those who need to walk with Him in silence so that they feel accompanied. These are the works that Jesus asks of us! To see Jesus in them, in these people. Why? Because this is the way Jesus sees me, sees all of us.

* * * * * *

Now let us move on to another thing.

In recent days the Lord allowed me to visit Armenia, the first nation to embrace Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century. It is a nation that, over the course of its long history, has witnessed the Christian faith with martyrdom. I thank God for this journey, and I am deeply grateful to the President of the Republic of Armenia, to Catholicos Karekin ii, to the Patriarch, the Catholic bishops, and the entire Armenian people for welcoming me as a pilgrim of brotherhood and peace.

In three months, God willing, I will make another journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan, two more countries of the Caucasus region. I accepted the invitation to visit these countries for two reasons: on the one hand to highlight the ancient Christian roots present in those lands – again in a spirit of dialogue with other religions and cultures – and on the other to encourage hope and paths of peace. History teaches us that the path of peace requires great tenacity and continuous steps, starting with small steps and gradually increasing them, going to meet one another. Precisely for this reason my hope is that each and every person may give his or her own contribution to peace and reconciliation.

As Christians we are called to strengthen the fraternal communion among us, so as to bear witness to the Gospel of Christ and to be a leaven of a more just and united society. For this reason the entire visit was shared with the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who fraternally hosted me for three days in his home.

I renew my embrace to the Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and to all the faithful of Armenia. May the Virgin Mary, our Mother, help them to remain steadfast in faith, open to encounter and generous in works of mercy. Thank you.

Special greetings:

Let us not allow the culture of wellbeing to weaken our sensitivity to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Let us be ever vigilant so as to discover their needs, and generous so as to come to their aid.

May God bless you!

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, particularly those from Sweden, China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. With heartfelt wishes that the current Jubilee of Mercy may be a time of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in the Lord Jesus!

I cordially greet the Polish pilgrims. Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for accompanying me with your prayers during my visit to Armenia. I ask you to continue praying for me and for the young people in Poland and throughout the world who are preparing for our now imminent meeting in Krakow. May the remembrance of “blessed are the merciful” be ever alive in our hearts and in our deeds. I bless you wholeheartedly. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Lastly, I address my greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Today we celebrate the first martyrs of the Church of Rome and we pray for those who to this day pay dearly for belonging to the Church of Christ. Dear young people, may faith have a place and may it give meaning to your life; dear sick people, may you offer your suffering in order that those far away may encounter the love of Christ; dear newlyweds, may you be educators of life and models of faith for your children.

Texts for meditation from St Josemaria’s writings

A serious examination of conscience

When you feel your conscience gnawing at you for not having done something good, it is a sign that the Lord did not want it to be omitted.
Just so. Moreover, you can be sure that you could have done it, with God’s grace.
Furrow, no. 105

Is there something in your life that does not suit your dignity as a Christian, something which makes you unwilling to be cleansed?
Examine your conscience, and change.
The Forge, no. 480

We have to open our eyes; we have to look around us and recognize how God is calling us through the people at our side. We cannot turn our backs on others, ignoring them, because we are caught up in our own little world. That wasn’t how Jesus lived. The Gospel often speaks of his mercy, his ability to feel the sorrow and share the needs of others. He consoled the widow of Naim; he wept at the death of Lazarus; he felt compassion for the crowds that followed him with nothing to eat; he also had pity on sinners, on those who go through life without knowing light or truth. “And when he landed, Jesus saw a large crowd, and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”
When we are truly sons of Mary, we understand this attitude of our Lord, and our heart expands and becomes tender. We feel the sufferings, doubts, loneliness and sorrow of all other men, our brothers. And we urgently want to help them and speak to them about God, so that they can treat him as their Father and understand the motherly care which Mary is offering them.
Christ is Passing By, no. 146

Our neighbours’ problems must be our problems. Christian fraternity should be something very deep in the soul, so that we are indifferent to no one. Mary, who brought up Jesus and accompanied him through his life and is now beside him in heaven, will help us recognize Jesus as he crosses our path and makes himself present to us in the needs of our fellow men.
Christ is Passing By, no. 145

Your charity must be adapted and tailored to the needs of others... not to yours.
Furrow, no. 749

Gaining awareness

If we have this filial relationship with Mary, we won’t be able to think just about ourselves and our problems. Selfish personal problems will find no place in our mind. Mary brings us to Jesus, and Jesus is “the firstborn among many brothers.” And so, if we know Jesus, we realize that we can live only by giving ourselves to the service of others. A Christian can’t be caught up in personal problems; he must be concerned about the universal Church and the salvation of all souls.
Christ is Passing By, no. 145

Only if we watch and contemplate the heart of Jesus will we ensure that our heart is freed from hatred and indifference. Only in this way will we know how to react as Christians to the pain and sufferings of others.
Christ is Passing By, no. 166

If we let Christ reign in our soul, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone. How I like that word: service! To serve my king and, through him, all those who have been redeemed by his blood. I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.
Christ is Passing By, no. 182

In order to act in this way always, the way good mothers do, we need to forget about ourselves and aspire to no other honour than that of serving others, in the same way as Jesus Christ, who preached that “the Son of man has not come to be served but to serve”. This requires the integrity of being able to submit our own wills to that of our divine model, working for all men, and fighting for their eternal happiness and well-being. I know of no better way to be just than that of a life of self-surrender and service.
Friends of God, no. 173

If we are to serve others, for Christ’s sake, we need to be very human. If our life is less than human, God will not build anything on it, for he normally does not build on disorder, selfishness or emptiness. We have to understand everyone; we must live peaceably with everyone; we must forgive everyone. We shall not call injustice justice; we shall not say that an offence against God is not an offence against God, or that evil is good. When confronted by evil we shall not reply with another evil, but rather with sound doctrine and good actions: drowning evil in an abundance of good. That’s how Christ will reign in our souls and in the souls of the people around us.
Some people try to build peace in the world without putting love of God into their own hearts. How could they possibly achieve peace in that way? The peace of Christ is the peace of the kingdom of Christ; and our Lord’s kingdom has to be based on a desire for holiness, a humble readiness to receive grace, an effort to establish justice, a divine outpouring of love.
Christ is Passing By, no. 182

Mercy shown in specific deeds

Don’t forget that before teaching one must act. “Coepit facere et docere,” the holy scripture says of Jesus Christ: “He began to do and to teach.”
First, action: so that you and I may learn.
The Way, no. 342

Among those around you – apostolic soul – you are the stone fallen into the lake. With your word and your example you produce a first circle... and it another... and another, and another... Wider each time.
Now do you understand the greatness of your mission?
The Way, no. 831

May we have the courage always to act in public in accordance with our holy faith.
Furrow, no. 46

I would like you to behave as Peter and John did – speaking to Jesus about the needs of your friends, colleagues… as you pray. And then with your example you will be able to say to them: Respice in nos! – look at me!
The Forge, no. 36

Think what would happen if we Christians chose not to behave as such... and then rectify your behaviour.
The Forge, no. 95

When I speak to you of good example, I mean to tell you, too, that you have to understand and excuse, that you have to fill the world with peace and love.
When I speak to you of good example, I mean to tell you, too, that you have to understand and excuse, that you have to fill the world with peace and love.
The Forge, no. 560

Coepit facere et docere – Jesus began to do and then to teach. You and I have to bear witness with our example, because we cannot live a double life. We cannot preach what we do not practise. In other words, we have to teach what we are at least struggling to put into practice.
The Forge, no. 694

Imaginative charity

When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for Christ’s sake, so tactfully and so naturally that no one – not even he – will realise that you are doing more than what in justice you ought.
This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God!
The Way, no. 440

If I don’t see you practise that fraternal spirit that I preach to you constantly, I shall remind you of those affectionate words of Saint John: “My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active”.
The Way, no. 461

Charity towards our neighbour is an expression of our love of God. Accordingly, when we strive to grow in this virtue, we cannot fix any limits to our growth. The only possible measure for the love of God is to love without measure; on the one hand, because we will never be able to thank him enough for what he has done for us; and on the other, because this is exactly what God’s own love for us, his creatures, is like: it overflows without calculation or limit.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his divine command of charity to all who are ready to listen with an open mind. At the end, by way of summary, he says, “Love your enemies, and do good to them, and lend to them, without any hope of return; then your reward will be a rich one, and you will be children of the most High, generous like him towards the thankless and unjust. Be merciful, then, as your Father is merciful.”
Mercy is more than simply being compassionate. Mercy is the overflow of charity, which brings with it also an overflow of justice. Mercy means keeping one’s heart totally alive, throbbing in a way that is both human and divine, with a love that is strong, self-sacrificing and generous. Here is what St Paul has to say about charity in his hymn to this virtue, “Charity is patient, is kind; charity feels no envy; charity is never perverse or proud, never insolent; does not claim its rights, cannot be provoked, does not brood over an injury; takes no pleasure in wrong-doing, but rejoices at the victory of truth; sustains, believes, hopes, endures, to the last.”
Friends of God, no. 232