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Allow Jesus’ loving gaze to transform you during Year of Mercy

In his homily on the feast of St Matthew in Holguin, Cuba, Francis said: “… (Jesus) looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart, it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalen, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: ‘I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon.’”

The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy transformed Matthew. The Year of Mercy is likewise an invitation to us to allow Jesus’ gaze of mercy to transform us. It is not meant to be some sort of “get out of jail free card” that dispenses some “cheap grace.” Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal conversion.

This Holy Year of Mercy is not about denying sin or the seriousness of its consequences. If there is no such thing as sin then mercy is just a rather empty and shallow sentimentality. Mercy, to be mercy, must always be “love in truth.” But the Holy Year of Mercy is about reminding us that God’s mercy is always greater than our sins. As someone once said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Mercy opens that future to us.

To allow Jesus to gaze on us through his “eyes of mercy” is to refuse to define ourselves by our sins; it also means that we who have experienced his mercy are not to define others by their sins. To allow Jesus to see us through his “eyes of mercy” is to be transformed and to hear him say to us also, “Follow me.”

God does not love us only when we are good or because we are good. He loves us in spite of our sins and failings; and it is his love, his merciful love, that can transform us and help us discover the joy of service.

The Holy Year of Mercy is an invitation to all to experience God’s presence and closeness in their lives. “Miserando atque elegendo,” Jesus calls sinners. If the Church were to publish a “want ad” looking for new members, the ad might read, “Only sinners need apply.” As the Holy Father said in Holguin, speaking of St Matthew: “This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: ‘I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon.’” – Archbishop Thomas Wenski @

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