As we move through the remainder of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we focus our attention on something very basic—our call to tell others about our belief in Almighty God and our willingness to live our lives in public witness of that faith. The work of mercy that may come to mind here is “instructing the ignorant.” Now, I must admit that this title may seem a bit extreme in our “politically correct” world; nevertheless, sharing our faith with others is of basic importance for us to help make the kingdom of heaven a reality on earth, as much as we look forward to its fulfillment in eternity.
Many times, I am struck by senseless “wisdom” of the world that tends only to the veneer of cultural and social contrivances. Rarely do we go deeper into the needs of our souls, the deep realities that extend our lives beyond what is here and now, taking us into what truly makes us creatures made by God in His own Divine Image. Worldly wisdom seems to be composed of trends and personal conjecture and swiftly conforms to whatever the loudest group is “selling” at any given time. It is spread swiftly through public and social media and affirmed as doctrine by those who create it. Worldly wisdom changes quickly and all those who don’t “keep up” or, God forbid, disagree with its twists and turns, are mercilessly left behind in tirades of accusations, innuendo and verbal assaults. Worldly wisdom assumes that we are a “collective” and that certain elements of the collective set the tone for social consciousness and action. Personal liberty and individual thought are lost in such a world—a world already invading our lives at an alarming rate.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy stresses the importance of mercy and justice—two simple components of Almighty God. Both are dismally misunderstood in today’s secular society and are defined by a narrow sense of subjective ideas motivated by the collective’s current determinations. Pope Francis cautions when we think of justice and what might come to mind is an administration office where victims of an injustice appeal to a judge in court asking that justice be done.
This, Francis noted, “is retributive justice, imposing a punishment to the guilty, according to the principle that each must be given what is due him.” While certain wrongs can be made right in this way, he said, it “still doesn’t bring true justice.”
Instead, “it is only in responding with good that evil can be truly defeated,” the pope said, explaining that what we find in the Bible is the path that teaches, allowing the offended person to approach the guilty party and invite them to conversion.
By helping the guilty person to see the evil he or she has done, and by appealing to their conscience, they are then able “to see their wrong and be open to the forgiveness offered,” Francis said, noting that this is also how families forgive each other, spouses and children included.
Pope Francis noted that, of course, “this is not an easy path,” since it requires that we be willing to forgive and to always desire the salvation of those who offend us.
Now, let’s return to the work of mercy at hand: “instructing the ignorant.” To follow the papal teaching, one must have some sort of objective reality to which he or she conforms—a basis of knowledge or philosophy of life. Instructing the ignorant, then, takes us more deeply into the life of every human being. We need to understand the deeper meaning of life and the strength that comes from our faith in God.
Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God.” People of faith are really expected to see more in life than simply the nuts and bolts of math and science and the visible components of day-to-day living. Paying heed to the invisible matter of our lives clearly brings us to another level of being and can bring joy with hope as we plumb the depths of God’s mercy and love for each one of us.
I invite you to ponder the wisdom of the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Seeking God’s wisdom in finding Jesus in our daily lives will give freshness to the way we view life. Set your heart on the hope that comes from faith and the manner of life that follows. We cannot live by worldly principles alone. Creating a philosophy of life based on faith and the reality of God’s presence in our lives is the way in which we instruct those who clearly don’t know any better.
Live the life and pass it on!
For personal reflection or small group discussion
- When should I bring up God in my conversations?
- How am I supposed to instruct the ignorant as a work of mercy when I often feel ignorant about my faith, too?
- I want to talk about my faith, but I don’t know how to start. Where can I get help?
- I’ve been away from the Church for a while. Why should I come back?