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​We can be transformed by mercy, says archbishop at outdoor mission Mass

September 18, 2020 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press, Breaking News

We can be transformed by mercy, says archbishop at outdoor mission Mass

A Caring for Creation Outdoor Mass, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Mission San Jose, was celebrated on the grounds in front of the historic church by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, early on a cool Sunday morning, September 13.

The liturgy, themed, “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope,” was a local event that was a part of the Global Season of Creation September 1 to October 4.

In his comments, the archbishop recounted how Pope Francis has spoken at various times during the coronavirus pandemic, asking Catholics and all people to respond to the crisis as one family. “We must work on eliminating the injustices that undermine the health of all in the world,” Archbishop Gustavo explained. He said the pope’s fear is that we may “be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference. A virus spread by the thought that life is better if it is better for me, and that everything will be fine if it is fine for me.”

The archbishop called on listeners to take the pope’s words to heart as one human family, thinking about how mercy and forgiveness operate in our lives, in the community of humans, and in our relationship with God. Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 to focus reflection on how indifference prevents people from being that one human family.

The Gospel at the Mass, Matthew 18:21-35, is called the Sermon on the Church. It addresses how we should relate to Christ and each other. The first reading at the liturgy from Sirach was similar to what Jesus says in the Gospel about mercy: How can you expect mercy from God if you do not know how to show mercy to others?

“Our mercy must always be seen in the light of God’s mercy. God’s mercy is merciful no matter what. That mercy lasts for our lifetime,” said Archbishop Gustavo. “That mercy is also overwhelming. It is the mercy that forgives a lot, 70 times 7 times. Mercy and forgiveness must be offered always, and without even waiting for the other to ask.”

The parable Jesus shares tells what was forgiven. A huge impossible amount: 10,000 talents or 60 million days wages or more than 230,000 years of work! This was a deliberate exaggeration to make a point. Ten thousand was the highest figure in arithmetic for the people of Jesus’ time. The listeners would have seen the first servant as a member of the rich class, who were rich at the expense of the poor.

“When the king unexpectedly forgives, there is unbelief that such generous mercy could have happened,” the archbishop stressed. “The parable creates a dilemma for the listener, namely how to think about non-punishment and mercy.”

The second part of the parable is very different. There is little debt, but the forgiven servant shows only ruthlessness and violence. Now the listener sees an unforgiving person. The unforgiving servant must be punished and it seems as if it will be forever. He could not show the same mercy he was shown. His punishment is now as exaggerated as the original debt.

“Jesus’ story would have shocked the listeners, which was true for many of his parables. This story moved them to understand the unexpected possibilities of living in the reign of God,” said the San Antonio prelate. “God is merciful to us, so we must show mercy to others. The parable is a warning that forgiveness can be forfeited.”

Archbishop Gustavo told attendees sitting outside enjoying a slight breeze that Matthew knows his Christian community is not perfect; that they had their prejudices. But Matthew wants a community of care, tolerance, and kindheartedness. “We are all in need of mercy, and thus must carry Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness to all. 7 times 70 means always and forever. We need to admit we are not better than others. We all are sinners in need of God’s mercy.”

Matthew’s question is “Where do I go from here? What do I do about this?”

The Missionary of the Holy Spirit said it is clear from the readings that we are not just called to forgive when convenient. “We are called to an extraordinary mercy, a forgiveness of the heart,” he said. “It is the heart that changes us and others.”

The archbishop lamented that the coronavirus has exposed so many things that are not right with our community and with the world, as we see a disproportionate impact on the poorest and people of color.

The pope is also saying that through this difficult time we all need to hear a call to show mercy from the heart.

“It means we are committed to see all as sisters and brothers of the same God who is Father to all and who created all. It is not for us to judge,” Archbishop Gustavo concluded. “That is God’s job. What we hear first and foremost is God’s mercy, which must be imitated.”

At the end of the service, Rebecca Simmons, director of the Old Spanish Missions, expressed her gratitude to Father Rogelio Martinez, OFM; Brother Kevin Lenihan, OFM; and the parish community of Mission San Jose for their hospitality. She also thanked Mariachi Mexica for performing the music, as well as the City of San Antonio for providing small trees that families were able to take home and plant.