"Big Four" Highlights


Men of Mercy

Bring the Jubilee Year into your home

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

If you are at all like me, you have taken great comfort in these words many times:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

You may recognize the formula for absolution that the priest says in the Sacrament of Confession.

I absolve you from your sins.

The Prodigal Son returns to the Merciful Father.

What amazing words! What an amazing claim! Who but God can forgive sins? Yet that is what the Catholic Church claims to do through her priests, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Pay attention, guys. Wake up, men. We are considering the realm of the supernatural as it intersects our natural world. This is where the Church stands, and always has stood since the Blessed Mother and St. John took their places at the foot of the cross; since Jesus imparted the gift of forgiveness in his name to the Apostles; since the first Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came among us for the forgiveness of sins.

The question is: Where do I stand? Will I stand with the Church at the intersection of life and death, sin and forgiveness, heaven and hell? Will I report for duty or desert the post chosen for me by God? Stand or run? Fight or flee?

Do you think, as a man, religion is not for you? Maybe you say: no apologies, no looking back, no hand-wringing and prayer-clinging for me! I’ll look God in the eye, man to man, and say, I did it my way!

Good luck with that. But there’s more: don’t be a sucker. There is no greater challenge in life, no higher mountain to climb, no more urgent battle to fight than is found in the drama lived out each day in the Catholic Church. Don’t stand on the sidelines. Get in the game. You’ve got immortal souls – your own and those of your family and loved ones – hanging in the balance.

Now we have the Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, inaugurated Dec. 8, 2015, and concluding Nov. 20, 2016.

Mercy, you may think, is not for men. But real men seek mercy, and offer mercy. As a man, as a husband, as a dad, you need to bring mercy home.

Here are three steps you can take in this Year of Mercy:

Go to Confession: You can’t give what you don’t have. Examine your conscience to become more aware of your own shortcomings and failures, and you will naturally become more patient and understanding of these things in others – like your wife, children and coworkers. Experience the mercy of God in this sacrament and you will be able to be more merciful toward others – not the soft mercy of “pretend it never happened,” but the masculine mercy of Jesus who told people to turn from sin, upbraided hypocrites, and cleared the temple to reclaim the honor of his Father’s house. Ultimately, he offered himself on the cross rather than let us suffer.

Read the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32): This parable of Jesus is also called the Merciful Father. It is 21 verses, the longest parable in the Gospels, and the most instructive for dads. The message hits home for me especially because I have two sons (ages 15 and 11) who are very different in talent and temperament. Each time I read the parable, I see something new to apply to my dealings with my boys.

I think the most basic lesson of the parable is that the father loved without limit, and he does not give up on either son. At the center of the story, he is the epitome of what we would call today an “involved father,” yet he does not seek to control his boys. He lets one wander, fail and return; he lets the other fester in envy, but he teaches them by word and example. In the end, the father is a man of reconciliation, of peace in the heart and in the home.

Love Your Wife – This may sound like a cliché. Of course, we love our wives, didn’t we promise that when we got married? Yes, but where is the evidence? St. Paul tells us to love our wives as our own flesh, caring for and nourishing her. Ask yourself this one question right now: in what way have I expressed my love for my wife today? If I were being tried in court, what evidence would I bring to prove my love? God will ask for that evidence on the last day.

Wake up, men of mercy.