Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."
"I didn't think I could be anointed." a Veteran said to me as I was reaching for my bottle of oil. He had not been to church in a very long time, since he was divorced and his children left him to live alone.
"New pope!" I said.
Most of the Veterans have heard about the new pope; they think well of him though they have little idea of what a pope does or how he might influence the Church. They like what they see.
Pope Francis followed Pope Benedict's Year of Faith with its corollary, a Year of Mercy. Of all God's virtues -- Goodness, Beauty, Holiness, Power, Knowledge -- Mercy is what moves him to us, and draws us to him. "The heart is attracted to love, Saint Augustine said, "as iron is drawn to a magnet."
Jesus put mercy ahead of every other consideration, including his own precious body and blood, as he approached the people of his time. He repeatedly healed the sick, ate with sinners, preached God's word to the foolish, and reproached those who used their authority to exploit the weak.
Predictably, Pope Francis has met the same resistance that Jesus met. "Mercy" they say, "is a fine thing but let's not forget prudence. There are other considerations, and limits we should observe."
I don't anoint every patient I meet. Some frankly decline my offer; some would rather I did not visit. Some leave it up to me; "If you want to." they reply.
Yes, I want to show the mercy and kindness of the Church. Yes, I want them to experience this sacramental Presence of God in their hospital room. But to that reply I hesitate. Do I broadcast God's mercy like the sower whose seed fell on rocky soil, hardened footpaths and rich, fertile soil; or do I observe the Lord's cautious advice about pearls and swine? Hopefully, at that moment, I let the Holy Spirit guide me.There is no gainsaying God's sacrificial mercy in the Incarnation. The Lord, from his birth in Bethlehem to his death on Calvary, despised every pretense that might save him from the humiliation of our human flesh. In that vein, Saint Hilary of Poitiers wrote:
"God the Word became flesh, that through His Incarnation our flesh might attain to union with God the Word. And lest we should think that this incarnate Word was some other than the Word of God, or that His flesh was of a body different from ours, He dwelt among us that by His dwelling He might be known as the indwelling God, and, by His dwelling among us, known as God Incarnate in no other flesh than our own; and moreover, though He had condescended to take our flesh, not destitute of His own attributes; for He, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, is fully possessed of His own attributes and truly endowed with ours,”