Friday, September 11, 2015

The Face of Mercy and Mercy: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics (Pauline Books and Media and Our Sunday Visitor)

The Year of Mercy will begin before we know it. It begins on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, for those who didn't know. Announcing a special theme for a year is nothing remarkable, as we have had The Year of the Family, The Year of Saint Paul, and The Year of Faith to name only a few in the past decade. So what makes this year so special? In a nutshell, it's an Extraordinary Jubilee Year! The last one was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983. That was over 32 years ago, so this is truly an exciting time in the Church! If you want to prepare yourself for this Year of Mercy, then I have several book recommendations for you.

The Face of Mercy is the Bull of Indiction (formal proclamation in layman's terms), which Pope Francis issued about The Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pauline Books and Media is the only publisher I know of to print this document, and it is a brief 32-page one at that. In it, he begins by explaining that Jesus is the face of God's mercy. He then goes on to explain what mercy is and why our salvation depends on it. He also tells us that there are times we must focus on mercy more, and that is the reason for his proclaiming this upcoming year The Year of Mercy. The rest of the document explains procedure of when the year starts and opening the doors; Scriptural passages related to mercy to enlighten us on how to be merciful like Christ and God the Father; the importance of a pilgrimage during a Holy Year; and under what circumstances indulgences will be granted.

After reading The Face of Mercy, I recommend you turn your attention to the book Mercy: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics. The book is divided into the following six sections:

1. Human Mercy
2. Withholding and Granting Mercy
3. An Overview of God's Mercy
4. Mercy and Covenant Love
5. Lord, Have Mercy
6. Mercy as a Saving Act

The book's focus is on Israel's experience of mercy and closes with Jesus and His sacrifice as the ultimate example of mercy. Each chapter is full of Scripture to read, sections to make notes on specific Scripture verses, discussion questions, and practical ways to apply what you learned in the chapter. "Withholding and Granting Mercy" was the most interesting and enlightening chapter to me. In this chapter, we are presented with examples of God withholding mercy (primarily against nations who opposed the Israelites) and God granting mercy. One of the discussion questions dealt with the phrasing of God hardening a particular leader's heart and what we think it means. It is definitely a troubling phrase, but I have recently come to see it as human authors trying to explain a Divine Being, which is like trying to gather the ocean into a thimble. God is not responsible for making these leaders have hardened hearts. Instead, it is the leaders willfully rejecting God on their own and to their own demise.

Like the many Bible Studies from Our Sunday Visitor that Fr. Mitch Pacwa has penned before, he has once again delivered a solid Bible Study for the reader to use individually or in a small group setting. By working us through a historical view of mercy, he leads us to the importance of us extending God's mercy to everyone around us. I recommend picking up a copy and studying it either before or during The Year of Mercy!

These books were provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media and Our Sunday Visitor, respectively. If you found the reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!