The mercy of God in the hands of a priest

Here is a lovely quote from the folks at Daily Gospel Online, taken from the sermons of St. Anthony of Padua.   It was included as the meditation on the healing of a leper by Jesus (Luke 5:12-16).  I have highlighted the last paragraph, as this spoke quite strongly to me and resonates with the emphasis Pope Francis has put on Divine mercy.

Oh! How I marvel at that hand! That “hand of my Beloved, of gold adorned with chrysolites” (Wsd 5,14). That hand whose touch loosened the tongue of the dumb man, raised the daughter of Jairus (Mk 7,33; 5,41) and cleansed lepers. That hand of which the prophet Isaiah said: “My hand made all these things!” (Is 66,2).

To stretch out one’s hand is to present a gift. O Lord, stretch out your hand – that hand which the executioner stretched out on the cross. Touch the leprous man and grant him your favor. Everything your hand touches will be cleansed and healed. “He touched Malchus’ ear” Saint Luke says, “and healed him” (22,51). He stretched out his hand to grant the gift of healing to the leper. He said: “I do will it. Be made clean” and the leprosy left him immediately. “Whatever he wills, he does” (Ps 115[113B),3). In him nothing divides the will from the deed.

Now, God works this kind of instantaneous healing daily in the sinner’s soul through the ministry of the priest. Priests have a threefold office: to extend the hand, that is to say to pray for the sinner and have mercy on him; to touch him, comfort him, assure him of forgiveness; to will this forgiveness and grant it by absolution. This was the threefold pastoral ministry the Lord entrusted to Peter when he said to him three times: “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21,15f.).

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  • Tausign

    I’m currently reading Misericordiae Vultus, the ‘Bull of Indiction regarding the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy. In speaking of the role of priests as confessors Pope Francis pulls out all the stops using the parable of the prodigal son…

    ‘Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his judgment is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy. May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy pouring from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.[from paragraph 17]

    I suppose much of the resistance to this is held in the poorly formed notion that this action is not about mercy at all, but rather about judgment and power…doors being opened and closed…priests as gatekeepers, etc. Many sit outside the ‘doors of mercy’ and never approach because they lack a conversion experience. But my own experience has taught me time and time again that interior conversion was the result…the fruit of divine mercy…and not the other way around.