It has been almost a year since Pope Francis closed the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in December, 2016. Perhaps we might take stock to see if anything about the Year of Mercy “stuck.”
Have we become more merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful? Has the Church’s credibility been seen more clearly “in how she shows merciful and compassionate love” (The Face of Mercy, 10)? Have we pardoned offenses as “an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves” (9)?
If we’re honest, we’d answer with a resounding “sort of.” And yet, because conversion is ultimately God’s work and not ours alone, we trust that we indeed have become more merciful. I know because I’ve seen it in the darkest hours of this past year. I have witnessed small, gracious acts of mercy, and, every so often, profound moments revealing the merciful face of God.
Yet, we still have a long way to go. A Year of Mercy wasn’t enough. Perhaps that is why Jesus calls us to forgive not seven times but the hyperbolic seventy-seven times. For the goal of forgiveness is not to change the person being forgiven but to change the heart of the one who forgives to be more like God’s heart—slow to anger and rich in compassion.