The “Year of Mercy” proclaimed by Pope Francis begins just over a month from today, on December 8, 2015. Today’s scripture readings remind us that there is a firm foundation in both Scripture and the Tradition for believing that God is merciful, and for our finding concrete ways to celebrate God’s mercy.

The first reading speaks of “judgment,” and warns us against judging others, reminding us to leave judgment to God. But the opening words of the reading remind us that, in a special sense, we all belong to God, noting that we live and die for God. At least that’s the ideal.

The Gospel assures us that God loves sinners who repent, that is, who turn their backs on sin and return to God. So often in John’s Gospel, we are told to turn toward the Lord or to move toward God. This portion of Luke’s Gospel looks at it from God’s side, reminding us that we are valuable to God, and that God rejoices when he “finds” us, when – with his help and grace – we are moved to “repent,” to return to God. God constantly invites us sinners to return to him. We believe that God just needs to see that we accept the invitation from him, and he helps us to do the rest.

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.