We have solemnly begun and are now well into this wonderful Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. I hope all of you are already living intensely this very special time of grace in the Church. During this year we will have much to reflect on as it concerns the theme of mercy. I would like to reflect presently on the beginning of mercy. From whence does mercy flow?

Mercy flows from the very heart of God. In fact one could accurately say that the heart of God, the heart of the Gospel is mercy. Jesus revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska that he IS mercy. Jesus is the mercy of the Father sent into the world for our salvation. So before we become “doers” of mercy toward others, we first realize that we are the undeserving “recipients” of God’s mercy.

We are about to begin the great season of Lent. This is a graced time that takes on special meaning this year because of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis stated in the Bull announcing the Jubilee of Mercy: “The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy. How many pages of Sacred Scripture are appropriate for meditation during the weeks of Lent to help us rediscover the merciful face of the Father! We can repeat the words of the prophet Micah and make them our own: You, O Lord, are a God who takes away iniquity and pardons sin, who does not hold your anger forever, but are pleased to show mercy. You, Lord, will return to us and have pity on your people. You will trample down our sins and toss them into the depths of the sea (cf. 7:18-19).”

Tied to this theme is the importance of repentance in order to experience the mercy of the Father. To receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must turn to him with humble and contrite hearts. We do this in an especially meaningful, powerful and effective way in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, i.e. by going to confession! Again, Pope Francis: “Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.”

One must remember that the very first gift that Jesus gave to the Church on the night of the Resurrection was the power to forgive sins. We read about this in the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus appeared to the Apostles and wished them peace. He told them: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Think about that. In the immediate aftermath of his passion, death and resurrection, what is most on the mind of Jesus is to extend to the Church the mission he received from the Father. It is the mission of mercy, the mission to reconcile us to the Father, the mission to forgive sins!

Pope Francis recently said in an interview published as a book (“The Name of God is Mercy”): “Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus. It’s a way to be real and authentic: we face the facts by looking at another person and not in the mirror...It is important that I go to confession, that I sit in front of a priest who embodies Jesus, that I kneel before Mother Church, called to dispense the mercy of Christ. There is objectivity in this gesture of genuflection before the priest; it becomes the vehicle through which grace reaches and heals me.”

So, let us begin our celebration of this Jubilee of Mercy at the starting point. God is merciful toward us sinners and he forgives us freely and unreservedly. Let us not fear to approach him in the Sacrament of his mercy. Let us all go to confession! No sin is too big for God to forgive. No multiplication of sins over many years is beyond the embrace of his merciful heart to wipe out. Pope Francis is fond of reminding us that, although we may tire of asking God to forgive us again and again, often for the same faults, God never tires of forgiving us. I recently heard a good priest confessor put it this way: God takes more pleasure in forgiving us than the pleasure we take in our sin.

As one who himself stands in the confession line like everyone else, I make the humble plea for all of us to return to a regular and devoted practice of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. God’s mercy waits for you there. A blessed Lent to all of you!