by Ken Rolheiser
Mercy and Faithfulness on the road to heaven

When I was a child on the farm the Norwegian lady living next door saw my father working on the road to the old stone church of St Donatus. “Jorge, he iss building himself de road to hevin,” she said.
Vision was clearer back then. Mysteries were simpler. Any child could see that.

Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy, because “people need it and want it and don’t know where they can go for it” says our Pope. “So much of our culture and public and private life lacks mercy,” he says.

Fifty years earlier Pope Pius XII said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin. We consider our sins to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven, he said. We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy.

We need mercy. We need to ask ourselves why so many people today go to psychics and fortune tellers and not to church.

An example of our desperation is illustrated in St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Norwalk, CT, where the pastor Monsignor Walter Orlowski invited anyone who was interested to stop by and talk to a priest — no appointment necessary, no questions asked.

“Want to talk with a priest?” asked the ads. “We’re here for you. All are welcome.” The result was amazing. Teenagers, adults, seniors and whole families came to talk. People just trying to better their lives came to talk about annulments, reconciliation, relationships, church etc. Time slots were filled all day.

“Humanity is wounded,” Pope Francis said, “Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them. And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium. Relativism wounds people too: all things seem equal... Humanity needs mercy and compassion.”

The name of God is mercy Pope Francis said. We know we need mercy if we recognize the journey we are on as pilgrims on the road to heaven.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress the Character Christian journeys on the road to Mount Zion. Christian, representing every man, meets Worldly Wise who urges him to lead a practical life, a happy life without religion. Sound familiar?

Along the way Christian meets Faith. Passing Christ’s tomb and Cross he finds his burdens temporarily fall to the ground. Later he meets Hopeful. Eventually he kills Giant Despair from Doubting Castle…and well, you get the picture.

We can be enslaved by relativism, or secularism, or some other ISM on our journey until we forget about Faith, Hope and Love.

In a homily entitled “All Roads lead to Christ” Father Brendan McGuire speaks of over 50,000 miles of road throughout England, Europe, Asia and even Africa that all lead straight back to Rome. It was how Rome maintained control of its Empire.

The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." Luke 3:6

Laying those paving stones of kindness, gentleness and mercy towards all will let them know we are on the path of Christ, and all who meet us will know that all roads lead to Christ in our lives, McGuire says.

(560 words)