The sidewalk leading up the hill to Queen of Angels Church in Riverside truly became the “way of the cross” on November 19.
Uniquely designed crosses constructed by parishes over the past 12 months in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy lined the walkway to the church as the faithful of the Diocese celebrated a Mass to mark the Year. It was one visual sign of the local impact of Pope Francis’ call to Mercy. As he processed toward the church, Bishop Gerald Barnes blessed the crosses and offered a prayer of thanks to God for the participation of the parishes of the Diocese in the Jubilee Year.
“I was looking around and I thought I was in Las Cruces,” he later quipped during his homily, “because the parishioners brought the crosses.”
The Jubilee Year officially closed the following day, the Feast of Christ the King, but Bishop Barnes was clear that the emphasis on practicing mercy in the Diocese of San Bernardino must continue.
“We cannot let it end today and there is so much need in the world,” he said. “We need to show that Mercy Lives.”
His remark echoed a new social media campaign initiated by the Diocese, #Mercy Lives, which invites parishes to continue to practice Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in the coming year. At the Nov. 19 Mass Bishop Barnes announced the campaign, asking parishes to pray and dialogue to pick one specific work of mercy for focus in the coming year, and to publicly announce the choice on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2017. Prayer cards were also distributed allowing individual attendees to write down a work of mercy that they are committed to practicing this year.
The Gospel reading for the Mass was the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan, and Bishop Barnes spent much of his homily connecting the scene on the road to Jericho with the present age. He asked those in attendance to see themselves in all of the protagonists; the wounded traveler, the indifferent priest and Levite who pass by, and, finally, the Good Samaritan.
“Today’s road to Jericho is filled with victims and what will we do?” he asked. “We cannot walk by the other who has been left by the roadside. We must carry the mercy of God to them. We must enter their chaos.”
Queen of Angels new 1,400 seat church, which opened in April, was filled beyond capacity for the Year of Mercy Mass. Each of the 92 parishes in the Diocese was invited to send a small delegation to the event. Parishes within the six geographic vicariates of the Diocese were seated together and identified with small placards. Parishes that served as Year of Mercy pilgrimage sites for each vicariate – Our Lady of Guadalupe, Chino; Sacred Heart, Palm Desert; Holy Family, Hesperia; St. Catherine of Alexandria, Temecula; Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, San Bernardino; St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside; and Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Bernardino – processed into the church with their Year of Mercy Cross for display. In the coming year, these crosses will visit each parish within the vicariate they represent.