So today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Mary graciously steps aside and allows the mercy of God to take centre stage, as we begin a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Mercy... I find myself reflecting on what that word means for me, what images it conjures up. And all too often I find myself recalling scenes from period dramas, where terrified, tortured prisoners fall to their knees and beg a capricious captor to show mercy and save them from the terrible punishments they have been enduring. And if mercy is shown it is grudging and given for a reason, maybe because the prisoner is in some way useful. Mercy here is something well thought out, given cold, calculating consideration.
And yet, the Latin word for mercy reminds us that it is not a transaction or an intellectual exercise! Misericordia is composed of two words: miserere, to have pity or compassion, and cordia, of the heart. Mercy is of the heart, not of the head: it is the being 'moved with pity' of the Good Samaritan, the opening up of one's being to another's pain, the spontaneous, loving movement towards another in their suffering.
And through that merciful, compassionate gaze of Christ, may our hearts be truly opened, truly moved, especially towards those most in need of love and tender mercy. If Christ's gaze invites us in, into the very heart of God and of mercy, may we in turn reflect that gaze and that invitation for others. And may the closing words of the Pope's homily today be true for us and all those we meet, that we all may experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.