The meaning of Mercy

I know that all the friends and volunteers of Julia's are not Catholic.  But being a Catholic priest has inspired me with some thoughts which I would like to share with all of my friends, both Catholics and all others.

Pope Francis announced a "Holy Year of Mercy" which began on Dec. 8, 2015 and will end on Nov. 20, 2016. What a magnificent concept in light of our work with the Julia Greeley Home!  When I see someone reach out to the hundreds of homeless and defenseless, unaccompanied women in shelters or standing on the street corners, I give thanks to God for allowing His love to shine so brilliantly through us as frail human beings. Few actions shine so brilliantly in the dark corners of crushed lives as an act of "mercy."    

When I first thought of this Holy Year of Mercy in relation to our women at the Julia Greeley Home, I imagined women crying out to God to rescue them from the streets, and a generous God responding by sending them to Julia’s, where their needs are satisfied through our compassion, and by our generous donors who support us. Hopefully, this image will come true for a number of Julia's women during this Holy Year of Mercy. 

Then I realized that "mercy" is not just about receiving mercy, it is also about "showing mercy." 

In other words, this Holy Year of Mercy isn’t just about the women who come to the Julia Greeley Home, it’s also about the many good and generous people who make the Julia Greeley Home possible. But, thinking about it, I’m not sure people understand how important this act of showing mercy to the poor is, especially to the very source of Mercy, Jesus Christ himself! However, we can find our pretty easily the ultimate importance Christ placed on mercy --- that is, the mercy each of us shows to one another --- by what He said about it, as recorded in Scripture. 

Jesus told us straight out that it is only by showing mercy that we can obtain mercy from God for ourselves. He said that God will not give to us what we refuse to give to others. Jesus spoke very clearly and firmly about this. We hear these words so often sometimes we tend to slide over them and not really listen. But think what Jesus is really saying here, as recorded by the apostle Matthew in chapter 25:31-46:  "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat ( or you did not give me something to eat), I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." And we will say: "When did we see you a stranger and invite you in (or not invite you in), or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" And God the Judge will say:  "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Then Jesus talks about what will happen to the cold hearted, and those who turn their backs on others; they will be herded together like goats, and banished from happiness forever. In other words, our compassion and mercy towards others determines our own destiny --- will we go to eternal happiness or eternal punishment? The question is serious and very real.

Thus, the Holy Year of Mercy is a special opportunity for people to show mercy to our poor homeless women. They need your help -- they need our help! We know there are so many more women on the streets; currently, we at the Julia Greeley Homehave room for eight of them. We rejoice that those eight women are safe and refocusing their lives; the success of each individual is of incalculable importance. Yet it breaks my heart to think that there are so many more, literally hundreds of women just in our own Denver metro area, who are alone, afraid, and at risk in our violent society, and at this moment we can help only a small number of them. 

So we want to do more. Please pray for us, that we can continue to grow and expand our mission. This spring, in this Year of Mercy, we will be reaching out as never before to ask for your help, both to volunteers, who give so inspiringly of their time and talents to Julia’s residents, and to our donors, who “keep the lights on,” and who we hope and pray will be be inspired to help us grow and secure a larger home. 

For me, it’s inspiring to think that those who generously join our mission at the Julia Greeley Home as volunteers and as donors are fulfilling Christ’s words all at once -- in other words, when you help us in any capacity, you are feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing those who have inadequate clothing, and inviting in the stranger, every time a new resident comes to Julia’s. You make all this possible; and, as Christ tells us, you are making your own eternal happiness possible too.