In today’s gospel, we see Jesus at the table sharing a meal with many sinners and tax collectors. The Pharisees see this and are perplexed: why does Jesus associate himself with the lowest in society? Jesus responds: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Today’s gospel is very timely for us in the “Year of Mercy.” Pope Francis’ official proclamation, “The Face of Mercy,”  declares that “mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel.” In this Year of Mercy we are challenged to better understand how God has been merciful to us and how we can be merciful to others in turn.

As Jesus shows us, those who are filled with self-righteousness cannot be merciful; rather mercy begins when we empty ourselves of judgment and encounter suffering both in ourselves and in the world. God’s redemptive mercy shows us that where there is suffering, there is also healing.

Who in our family, community, and world needs mercy? In what ways are we in need of God’s mercy? How can I be merciful to someone today?

—Kathleen Cullen Ritter serves as Director of Campus Ministry at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, WI. She attended Marquette University and served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corp in Bend, OR.