Francis opens the doorI love this image.

On Tuesday 8 December 2015, Pope Francis threw open the doors of the church to begin “The Holy Year of Mercy”, placing mercy above moralizing, grace above dogma, and forgiveness above exclusion.

Speaking to an estimated 50,000  people Pope Francis issued the challenge,

How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.

To begin with forgiveness is to affirm that the world is not divided into “good” people like me and others who are”bad”. The only separation is between people who acknowledge they have fallen short of the beauty and perfection for which they were created, and those who fail to see the conflicted broken condition of their lives.

Jesus articulated the challenge of being human by calling his followers simply to

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

To be “perfect” is to live a life of self-giving sacrificial love. The love Jesus proposed is

pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)

When you live according to this love you will be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9); you will be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14); you will seek to “first be reconciled to your brother or sister” (Matthew 5:24).

When you live in the love that is your true nature,

if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:40-42)

And you will

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

If this is what it means to be truly human it is no wonder one of the fundamental prayers of the Christian faith is:

Lord Jesus Christ Have mercyPaul was not being judgmental or engaging in hyperbole when he announced,

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Paul was simply stating a fact he acknowledged as part of his own human experience – we all fail to live up to the potential of our human nature.

There is no room for finger pointing. There is no room for me to sit in judgement on you. Every wrong I see in another is equaled by a sin in my own life that renders me every bit as guilty as the person I condemn.

If I am going to live a “Holy Year of Mercy,” I need to be honest. I fail and get it wrong more times than I get it right. I will betray you; I will betray myself. I will let you down; I will hurt you; I will hurt the human community and this beautiful earth we share.

This is why I must heed the Pope’s advice and always

put mercy before judgment.

The only position I can ever take is the position of the tax-collector who

standing far off,
would not even look up to heaven,
but was beating his breast and saying,
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

(Luke 18:13)

If we are going to throw the doors open, mercy must be our starting point.