Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Feast of Saint John Paul II with a Reflection on Mercy

Monday, October 24, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass on Saturday to commemorate the feast day of Saint John Paul II. The Mass was celebrated at the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary, named after the saint whose pontificate spanned nearly three decades, from 1978-2005. In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on mercy, a significant aspect of Saint John Paul II’s ministry during his pontificate. In the context of the Jubilee of Mercy, the cardinal focused on Saint John Paul II’s 1980 encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in mercy).

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily describing a scene often dramatized in movies and television dramas of the moment when the guilty person “throws himself on the mercy of the court” and begs forgiveness, pardon and a lighter sentence from the judge. “What heightens the drama is the uncertainty of the response. The judge does not always temper justice with mercy. The court and the law are not always prone to forgiveness,” said the cardinal. “Perhaps one of the reasons we are easily caught up in this type of story is because each one of us knows that at different times in our lives we have failed and done what is wrong…we are sympathetic because each one of us knows in our own heart that we too, from time to time, have failed and have sinned.”

But the great difference between the courtroom drama and the Divine Mercy of the Lord is the unconditional and unlimited depth of God’s forgiveness, the cardinal continued. “Pope Francis puts it this way, while we may sometimes get tired of asking for God’s forgiveness, God never gets tired of forgiving us,” said the cardinal.

Saint John Paul tells us in Dives in Misericordia that Jesus is the very incarnation of mercy, said the cardinal. “One of the reasons we are invited to use the Sacrament of Confession with regularity is precisely because it is in such a visible way that the mercy of God touches us. Our own archdiocesan program, The Light Is On For You, is an attempt to capture some of that visibility, that humanity of God’s mercy. The light is a real, visible one, shining in the Church and in the confessional, beckoning each of us to enter and to experience the outstretched hand of absolution.”

‘The love of God involves the love of people. It is God’s love for us that is the example and guiding force of what our love for others should be,” said the cardinal. “What a world we would bring about if such a vision rooted in God’s Revelation and proclaimed by Saint John Paul II in Dives in Misericordia were accepted as the starting point for how we deal with one another in our families, in our communities, in our nation and in the world at large.”

“My brothers, in the spirit of Saint John Paul II, in the guidance of Pope Francis and in the ancient teaching of our Church, let us in this season of mercy, simply renew our commitment to regularly ask for the blessing of God’s compassionate forgiveness. Then we need to bring ourselves to be as forgiving, compassionate, merciful and kind to everyone else in this house, to everyone else we meet as Jesus is to us and as Saint John Paul II reminds us.”


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C. and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi,
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