Year B – 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B - 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Fullness of Mercy

(Gen.3:9-15; 2Cor.4:13-5:1; Mk.3:20-35)

In 1981, as he was driven through the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Pope St John Paul II was shot and wounded by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Ağca.

Bullets struck his body and left hand, and narrowly missed his heart.

Ağca was arrested, and the Pope was rushed off to hospital. But before losing consciousness, John Paul said that he forgave the shooter.

In 2005, he wrote, ‘I was suffering – there was reason to fear, but I had a sort of strange confidence [that I would survive].’ And from his hospital bed, he asked the world to ‘pray for my brother… whom I have sincerely forgiven.’

Just after Christmas in 1983, John Paul visited Ağca in prison. They spoke privately in a corner of his cell, and Ağca kissed John Paul’s hand. 

As John Paul rose to leave, he gave Ağca a silver and mother-of-pearl rosary. Many were astounded to learn that Ağca was not handcuffed and that his cell door was left ajar. The Pope had asked a photographer to capture the event to show the world that forgiveness and mercy are possible in our fallen world.

In his book, Memory and Identity, John Paul wrote ‘Ali Ağca had probably sensed that over and above his own power, over and above the power of shooting and killing, there was a higher power. He then began to look for it. I hope and pray that he found it.’

Ağca reportedly became a Catholic in 2007.

John Paul lobbied the Italian president to pardon the prisoner, and he was freed in 2000. He was then deported to Turkey, where he served another 10-year sentence and was released three years later.

Ağca has repeatedly expressed remorse for shooting the Pope.

In Psalm 129 today, the psalmist declares that ‘With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.’ That’s how St John Paul II lived his life. He tried to model Jesus in all he did.

He was inspired by Jesus’ unfailing mercy and compassion in the Scriptures: how He comforts the distressed and heals the sick, the blind and the deaf; how He brings the dead back to life and forgives the woman caught in adultery; and how He even forgives those who crucify Him.

For with the Lord there really is fullness of mercy and redemption.

In our first reading today, Adam and Eve have disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. God knows this, but He doesn’t seek revenge. Instead, He asks them, ‘Where are you?’ In other words, ‘Where are your hearts now? Where are you in relation to me, to others and to yourself?’

Adam and Eve feel ashamed and try to dodge responsibility for what they’ve done, but God doesn’t seek to punish them. Rather, He turns to the evil serpent and promises that one day it will face justice.

For with the Lord there is fullness of mercy and redemption.

In today’s second reading, Paul is talking to the Corinthians. He assures them that their troubles and struggles are only temporary, and that they can look forward to the glory that awaits them in heaven if they stay strong in their faith.

For with the Lord there is fullness of mercy and redemption.

And in Mark’s Gospel today, evil is once again causing division and confusion in the world. Jesus has just chosen his twelve disciples and returns home to Nazareth. While he’s preaching, a crowd gathers.

Among them are members of Jesus’ family, but they think He’s lost His mind. And the scribes who are present are deliberately misinterpreting what He’s been saying. But Jesus is not discouraged. He calls the people to a new community, a new family that is not defined by nation or blood. And He says that anyone who hears and does the will of God is His brother, sister or mother.

For with the Lord there really is fullness of mercy and redemption.

The message for us today is that in our turbulent world, it’s so important to remain steadfast in living the life Jesus calls us to live.

Thankfully, if we make mistakes, our God is consistently full of mercy and redemption.

But at the same time, like St John Paul II, it’s also important that we extend that mercy to others, even if they don’t deserve it.

So, when next you pray the Lord’s Prayer and say the words ‘… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ ask yourself: who am I forgiving today?