Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM - A Franciscan Reflection on the Year of Mercy
Message of hope, faith, and mercy resonates
Tricia Griffith settles into a pew for a presentation by Fr. Mark Soehner.
“This guy is so wonderful I’m recording him,” says Tricia, who hears Mark preach when she attends Mass here at St. Anthony Shrine. Tonight’s topic, mercy, has drawn a large and diverse audience.
It’s not surprising that members of the Sunday community would be here for the Nov. 2 talk, last in a series of three given by SJB friars for the Year of Mercy. What’s surprising is the two rows of Boy Scouts on the opposite side of the chapel. On the advice of Fr. Kenan Freson, who subs at the parish, chaperone Toni Schneider brought the 25 young men from St. Bernard’s of Taylor Creek as part of their “Ad Altare Dei” faith formation program.
Another attendee whispers to a trio of women in the row behind her: “How do you know Mark?” Their responses: “From when he says Mass on Tuesdays”; “He was our parish priest for years”; and, “He’s got the Spirit for sure.”
Introduced by Guardian Fr. Carl Langenderfer, Mark launches into an animated presentation, “A Franciscan Reflection on the Jubilee Year of Mercy”, with themes so relatable that even the Scouts listen intently:
- “God doesn’t love you because you’re good. You’re good because God loves you.”
- “Mercy doesn’t come to us all pretty. It comes to us when we need it.”
- “Before teaching the commandments of God, we need to talk about the God of the commandments….God seen as an unforgiving tyrant or benevolent Santa Claus.”
- “When our resources seem inadequate, it’s time we go to a deeper well.”
- “To be rich in mercy is not to be stingy in any sense.”
- “It’s a lot easier to judge than be generous.”
- “When we receive mercy we want to give it away.”
- “What if we lived our lives in gratitude and had a revolution of tenderness?”
- “We can give regular doses of mercy with simple words like, ‘Forgive me.’ ‘I’m sorry.’”
Mark recounts his adventures with the Walking Friars and their 2009 trek across Virginia. Mercy and generosity were offered in abundance in unlikely places from unexpected sources. “Isn’t God good?” he says, and everyone agrees.
Mark gives Pope Francis the final word, paraphrasing a sentiment that seems obvious but bears repeating. “Everything the Church says and does should be seen as merciful.”
Judging by nods of appreciation, the gift of mercy has been gratefully accepted.
Year of Mercy presentations by Fr. John Quigley and Fr. Larry Zurek can be viewed on our YouTube page.
This article first appeared in the SJB News Notes