I write this month from Baltimore, where the bishops of the United States are gathered for our annual Fall Plenary Meeting. As we concelebrated the Eucharist early this Sunday morning. I offered Mass for all of you who constitute the community of faith that is the Diocese of Buffalo. (Did you know that diocesan bishops offer one Mass each Sunday and holy day of obligation pro populo, that is, "for the people," just as pastors are required to do weekly for their parishioners?)
This Sunday Mass was different for me. Before I went down to the large hotel meeting room that serves as our chapel, I was watching continuing TV coverage of the horrific massacre in Paris perpetrated by ISIS terrorists and resulting in 129 people killed and 352 injured. Sitting quietly in the chapel for the half hour before Mass, I struggled to put aside, at least for that next hour, the emotions of shock, anger, sadness and, yes, anxiety that were roiling my soul.
How the world needs the mercy of God, I thought; that mercy that is God's gift to us, and that calls us to live mercy in our relationships with others, and with the world. The Paris tragedy is a prime example of precisely the opposite of mercy. It is nothing other than raw, merciless cruelty on a massive and insane scale. Even as Pope Francis calls the Church to embrace the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, he responded to the Paris slaughter with words like "barbarity" and "intolerable."
The Holy Father's question echoes in all of our hearts when he asks, "How can it come to the heart of man to conceive and carry out such horrible acts?" A vital expression of the mercy we owe to all the Paris victims and their loved ones will be to bring the perpetrators and their leaders to justice. A commitment to mercy for the entire world will be an international effort to liberate the world from the scourge of ISIS terror.
Most importantly, this recent tragedy reminds us of the great need for prayer. I know that you join me in praying for peace in our world, for the repose of the souls who were lost, for those mourning the loss of their loved ones, and for the recovery of those who were injured in this and all other such attacks.
These were some of my distractions before Mass. I think I was not alone in that struggle. But God's grace - His mercy shown to me today - calmed me enough that I was able to enter into the Mass prayerfully and with a degree of serenity. And as I prayed for you, I remembered other reasons why we need to beg God for a flourishing of mercy in our diocese during the Jubilee Year.
I thought of all those situations in our own lives where we are called to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy - to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead; and to counsel the doubtful, instruct those lacking knowledge, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.
Many paths to a deeper experience of God's mercy, and to our call to live that mercy ourselves, will be available throughout our diocese during this Jubilee Year. Please take advantage of them. And let us remember our Holy Father's invitation:
"In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: 'Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old' (Ps. 25:6)." Misericordiae Vultus, 11 April 2015.