Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Ash Wednesday: Time for the Works of Mercy!


Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, February 10, 2016)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons:

"The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.” (Pope Francis, Misericordiæ vultus, n. 17)

Such is the wish that Pope Francis has expressed in the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy. Experiencing God’s mercy entails that we should accept the merciful look with which the Father looks at us and our lives, but also that we should imitate the Father, the Merciful, Whose Son is His icon, and Who grants mercy.

The prayers and readings of today’s Mass especially concern the first aspect. This call to mercy cannot go without conversion, without a will to change our lives so as to go back to God. We should relive the parable of the prodigal son: “I will arise, and I will go to my father.” (Lk 15:18) If by conversion and self-denial we open up to a relationship with God, we also open up to a relationship with our neighbours.

This relationship means that we should practise works of mercy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines them as “charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities.” (CEC, n. 2447) Tradition offers us prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, as milestones on our Lenten path. During this year, we might focus our attention on works of mercy.

Corporal works of mercy:
— to feed the hungry,
— to give drink to the thirsty,
— to clothe the naked,
— to welcome pilgrims,
— to heal the sick,
— to visit the imprisoned,
— to bury the dead.

Spiritual works of mercy:
— to counsel the doubtful,
— to instruct the ignorant,
— to admonish sinners,
— to comfort the afflicted,
— to forgive offences,
— to bear patiently those who do us ill,
— to pray for the living and the dead.

Among these works, many are those that we may put into practice inside our families, our communities, our society. Any relationship that does not strictly limit itself to justice is concerned with mercy. During this acceptable time, during these holy days, may we marvel at the always renewed kindnesses of our neighbours, and may we spend ourselves freely for them. Let us entrust to Mary, Mother of Mercy, our Lenten path, and let us prepare to remain with her during the hour when her Son grants us mercy, the hour of the Cross. Amen.

[Image source: Le Petit Placide]