The Face of Mercy

“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy,” says Pope Francis in his letter on the Year of Mercy. “Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.”

In a world that is not always kind and merciful, it is often the witness of a true disciple that makes the face of Christ visible.

This is exactly what Father Kapaun sought to be in the prisoner of war camp. In the hellish conditions they lived in, it was easy for men to become discouraged at the cruelty and negligence they experienced. The face of evil was much easier to see.

However, Father Kapaun was determined to be the face of Christ, the face of mercy. He did this in many ways: boiling clean drinking water, caring for the sick and washing their clothes, picking lice off of men who were unable or unwilling, and always being a voice of encouragement and forgiveness.

The soldiers took notice. “Before I met Father Kapaun in the prison camp,” said Lt. William Funchess, “I believed in God but felt that God was far away. After I met Father, I realized God was very near, was all around us.”

The little things Father Kapaun did were simple, but he performed them with such love and purpose that everyone was able to recognize Jesus behind them. Father Kapaun reflected Christ so well that many of the soldiers joked with him that he actually started to look like Christ.

After he died, the prisoners carved a crucifix in his memory so that the face of Christ could continue to be present among them. Although their imprisonment continued, they now knew Christ – Father Kapaun’s witness had made him real.

It is important for us to reflect, especially in this Year of Mercy, on how we can be the face of Christ to others. How, in our words, actions, and our entire person do we reveal the mercy of God?

There are many little ways each day that we can choose to show mercy to our neighbor, whether through a kind deed, an encouraging word, or letting go of a wrong they have committed against us. The question is, when we are given the choice to reflect either the face of the world or the face of Christ through our daily actions, which will we choose?

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