ROME, October 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, gave a strong intervention during the October 9 Synod session in which he spoke about true mercy, illustrating how holding back on the truth of what Jesus taught does not, in fact, help people in need of mercy.
Shortly after, LifeSiteNews was fortunate to be able to speak with Bishop Lonchyna just outside the Synod hall while the Synod fathers were on a break from voting on the final document.
During our discussion with Bishop Lonchyna, we talked about how people today want mercy, but they often aren’t ready to hear the Gospel, and thus don’t open themselves up to God’s grace. And as he stated in his intervention, mercy cannot be encountered unless it is measured against the natural law, which is truth.
Still, Bishop Lonchyna says, we must model God’s action and be merciful with them as He would be.
“Our God is a God of mercy and the best way that we can imitate our Lord is by being merciful ourselves,” Bishop Lonchyna told LifeSiteNews, “being more open to people, being more compassionate, even to their faults, to the problems that they have.”
“Be compassionate, because we’re all sinners,” he continued. “If someone is falling, it won’t help to just yell at him that he fell. I need to extend a helping hand and help him to get up.”
Mercy is God’s gift, the bishop said, available only through His grace, not by our efforts.
“True mercy is God forgiving us all of our transgressions, our sins, our trespasses,” Bishop Lonchyna said. “And doing this as a gift of his love, not something that we deserve or that we can even earn, but it is a true gift of grace.”
It is difficult for us to love our enemy, he said, for example. But if we ask God for his grace, and open ourselves up to it, which happens, according to Bishop Lonchyna, when we embrace a spiritual way of thinking. Then we realize God is the father of us all, including our enemy.
“Speak with love and tenderness, but speak the truth. Tell the people what they need to hear, not only what they want to hear.”
“And so that binds us, that unites us,” he said. “But we by ourselves, it’s very difficult to do.”
Bishop Lonchyna stressed once more how we must be open and let the Holy Spirit guide us, and also how receiving God’s grace is only possible because he makes it available to us.
“We need to cooperate because it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit,” he stated. “It’s the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and you know, we call it the spiritual life, but where does the spiritual life come from? From the Holy Spirit, it’s because the Spirit guides us and gives us the strength.”
In one of the intervention’s passages Bishop Lonchyna had said mercy means leading a person to the truth.
Mercy is not possible without Christ’s truth, the bishop said, and we will fail to encounter God if we water down Christ’s message, with regrettable results.
“We try to be compassionate, we try to understand every human story,” Bishop Lonchyna stated, “and sometimes in our compassion, we might have the temptation to try to be more merciful than the Lord.”
The language of true mercy comes straight from Christ, he said.
“Because the Gospel message is from Jesus Christ, it is not from the Church,” he said. “The Church has only to keep this message, and proclaim it. We cannot change it.”
“So the tough words that come from the Gospel are from Jesus Christ,” stated Bishop Lonchyna. “So we shouldn’t think that we can somehow make it better. We shouldn’t think that we are doing a favor for people when we sugarcoat the tough words of Jesus Christ.”
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“Mercy means not covering up reality with gift wrap,” he told the Synod fathers.
“The first word in his public ministry, he says, “Repent!” Bishop Lonchyna exclaimed to LifeSiteNews.
“That’s probably the last thing on our minds,” he continued. “We’re looking for self-fulfillment, for joy, for happiness, for fun, all of these things.”
The bishop recounted something he’s always noticed when people give interviews on television programs, and they’re talking about their work.
“And they’ll say, “Oh, I had a lot of fun,” as if that was the most important criteria for the work that you’re doing,” said Bishop Lonchyna. “I had a lot of fun. Jesus is not teaching us to have a lot of fun. He’s teaching us to become truly human beings, free human beings in his image and his likeness, people who love. And to love is probably the most difficult thing in the world.”
Since fun is the top priority for many people, and few people want to hear tough words, how does a Christian reach to someone in need of mercy?
“It needs to be said in a very compassionate way,” said Bishop Lonchyna. “You can’t go and start yelling at people, only criticizing them.”
He points to #37 in the Synod’s working document developed last year.
“Jesus spoke of the demands of the Kingdom, but he spoke with love and tenderness,” the bishop said. “So that’s the secret – speak with love and tenderness, but speak the truth. Tell the people what they need to hear, not only what they want to hear.”