When it comes to god we are all Olympic gold medalists at putting things off, when it comes to critical things in life, we are experts at putting things off. That’s why today’s catechesis, ‘Now is the Time of Mercy‘ is so critical at this time, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, told hundreds of Aussies pilgrims during World Youth Day.
‘We live on Gods mercy. We don’t and shouldn’t delay with God. We should’t put things off.’
Quoting St Augustine, the Cardinal said, ‘we will always have God’s mercy, we might not have tomorrow but we will always have God’s mercy. Haunting, isn’t it? That’s why now is the time of mercy’.
Gathered in a packed tent on Wednesday 27 July, Cardinal Dolan delivered an engaging, urgent and compassionate talk to young people at the english speaking catechesis site.
‘Of the seven WYDs that I’ve attended, I’ve found they can be times of choices and discernment, stop postponing and commit to God’s mission, his vocation for each one of us.’
He encouraged young people to ‘tell others about the way the Holy Spirit has lead you in these days of WYD’.
During a previous WYD, he retold the story of a young man who fell to his knees and asked the woman opposite him to marry him, ‘the grace of the Holy Spirit was upon him’. In 1993 at WYD in Denver, a young man discerned that Jesus was calling him to the priesthood. ‘The urgency of God’s message can be a part of WYD.’
‘What is this decision? We simply decide…I want God. I need God. I need a saviour. I am a sinner. I need his mercy. That’s the decision we are called to make now.’
Cardinal Dolan went on to talk about the ‘nine days that changed the world’ from 1-9 June 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited Poland creating a revolution of consciences that transformed Poland brought with about the fall of communism. It was Pope John Paul II’s first visit since he was elected Pope in 1978. During the nine days, Pope John Paul II transformed consciences
‘Religion was outlawed and Poland was in the darkness of oppression. For nine days, the Pope toured Poland and two thirds of the population met him. He spoke about God, he spoke about faith, he spoke about the sacredness of human life, he spoke about Jesus. The poles began to raise their heads and chanted we’re not alone. We’re not part of some personal oppressive system we have a name, a memory, a future, a culture, a faith, a soul and a saviour. As two million people gathered for Mass with JPII, people said we’re never going to see him again. A chant of three words began in the crowds, we want God!’
The chant resounded for two minutes during this time one of the clergy suggested, ‘Holy father, maybe you better tell the crowd to sit down but JPII said, are you kidding me, this is what I came for’.
The catechesis session was followed by a series of questions from young people, of which the Australian groups were well represented. One young girl asked, ‘how do we express our faith in our school and community?’
Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that ‘Catholics are much more meek and reticent about our faith. Here’s my advice! Don’t be a bible thumper. Instead of being immediately explicit about our faith, we can engage people with two things; our joy and our peace.
‘Not just giddiness but deep down joy. A truly happy person. A person of peace in times of trial. Then people begin to ask, I wonder what gives her that joy and peacefulness at a time like this. They’re going to say, I want to have peace like that.’
Another young girl asked about ‘how do I show mercy to myself? I know how to show mercy to others’. The New York archbishop explained that ‘divine mercy is key. The mercy we have for ourselves is the hardest. Depend on divine mercy. Go back to St Faustina. Seek Jesus’ mercy, God is greater than you so cut yourself some slack, rely on God’s mercy. It’s a gift. It’s God pure grace. There’s nothing I can do to earn it but I must have the grace to receive it as a gift.
Later in his homily, Cardinal Dolan said, ‘mercy is one of those words that we use a lot but it can be kind of tough to define. Mercy is God’s personal eternal passionate tender love for all of us. This gift from God is divine mercy. There is nothing we can do to deserve it, reserve it’.
‘It’s God tender loving saving mercy. It is ours for the taking. It’s gods grace.’
Setting a challenge, Cardinal Dolan reminded the pilgrims gathered that ‘God is always calling us to something and away from something else. A God question we ask ourselves during WYD is what is it that Jesus is asking me to leave behind’.
‘Remember, we get something and we leave something behind.’ Finally the Cardinal told a story about ‘a man who confided in me that he wanted to become Catholic. He had a big problem, he was addicted to gambling. He knew he could not embrace the faith without loosing the addiction. He relied on the mercy of Jesus’.
‘At the baptismal font, when I looked in the water after baptising him, there was a poker chip in the holy water. He left that as a symbol of what he had to leave behind. There’s our challenge, God’s mercy is ours for the asking and remember that when we receive it, we leave something behind.’
‘Neither do I condemn you, so go and sin no more.’