Earlier this year, Pope Francis delivered a bull of indiction declaring a Holy Year of Mercy for the coming year. This special year for the Catholic Church is intended for Catholic adherents across the world to show mercy, as God is merciful to them. The celebration begins December 8th and lasts through November of 2016. This seemed like just another celebration until I opened the Huffington Post this morning.
The morning's headline reads, "Pope Francis to Allow Priests to Forgive Women who had Abortions." This rather bold move for the Pope, though somewhat archaic in its language (suggesting that women need forgiveness for their decisions about their bodies) is nonetheless an incredible step for the Pontiff's efforts to make wider the circle of the church. It got this Baptist wondering, what might a "year of mercy" look like for the Protestant Church?
Would the Protestant Church be willing to widen its circle to a greater understanding of the grace offered to all of us by our Creator? Would the Protestant Church be willing to widen the circle to include those we have traditionally excluded from a place at the table of grace? Would the Protestant Church be more willing to take in the immigrant, the poor, the broken-hearted, and the despised?
These questions are questions I think we need to ask ourselves. Being a Baptist minister, I recognize that the Protestant tradition is anything but organized in comparison to the Catholic Church's hierarchy. But let me challenge you to have your own year of mercy, your own time of showing that with enough love and support for each other there is room for us all.
You see mercy is the first step towards redemption and reunification. In this broken world we need mercy, we need redemption, and we most certainly need to be united. So as our Catholic brothers and sisters celebrate and mark their year of mercy, may we in the Protestant tradition be bold enough to share in that work of grace with them. Because in the end, we're all in this together.