PHILIPSBURG – Good afternoon and welcome to St. Maarten.
Permit me to start by paraphrasing the Psalmist and say: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for our Reverend Fathers to gather together in unity!” For coming together to do God’s work is what this conference is all about.
I am informed that the theme of your conference is: “A Church that wants to reach all people in Mission of Mercy” and specifically that you wish to achieve this by reflecting on the teaching of the Church, by sharing experience and activities in this Year of Mercy and by planning various activities for the coming year. Your mission is not an easy one. I wish you God’s guidance and success.
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Our Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.”
Our God is, indeed, a God of mercy. Mercy is His nature. However, I doubt if we truly understand mercy. We are more prone to judge others than to be merciful towards them. Yet, we would kneel down and ask God as we do in Psalm 51 to:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.”
How could we pray like that if we are filled with judgment? God grants us mercy freely, without our deserving it. Therefore, it would be logical that what we have been given freely, we should also give away freely.
In this Year of Mercy, in order for the Church to reach ALL people, we must embrace the words of Pope Francis when he said: “We cannot understand Christ without his Church, just as we cannot understand the Church without her spouse, Christ Jesus, who gave His life out of love, and who makes us see that it is worth the price.”
The Holy Father further told us, when he visited Cuba, to “Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.”
Standing before you as a lay man, as a Catholic lay man, I know that I do not stand alone when I tell you that you couldn’t have chosen a better time to hold your conference here, as we continue to celebrate 175 years of the Catholic Church on St. Maarten.
You are therefore, most welcome to our friendly island, and although your mission is one of meditation, reflection, and planning, may I remind you again of the words of our Holy Father: “A Christianity which ‘does’ little in practice, while incessantly ‘explaining’ its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced.”
So, please do find time to seek that balance by doing some sight-seeing, and perhaps a little shopping here and there, while sharing the love of God.
May God shed His inspiring light upon your deliberations. I thank you.