With this post we leap into the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II. Following Redemptor Hominis (1979) the topic of mercy may have been something of a surprise. I don’t find Dives in Misericordiae (“Rich in mercy”) to be cited as often as a handful of other documents by our recent, sainted pope.
There are eight headings within this document. These themes are distributed through fifteen numbered sections, each quite long compared to most all other church documents.
You will find John Paul’s keen intellect really explores his topic. We will be devoting several days to each numbered section–this will not be a two-week enterprise.
After the opening blessing of this document, Pope John Paul II introduced his first section with a citation fro. John 14:9, “(The one) who sees me sees the Father.” As we explore section 1, “The Revelation of Mercy,” we look first to the Word of God, and to every Christian’s great teacher, Jesus:
1. The Revelation of Mercy
It is “God, who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is His very Son who, in Himself, has manifested Him and made Him known to us. (Cf. Jn. 1:18; Heb. 1:1f) Memorable in this regard is the moment when Philip, one of the twelve Apostles, turned to Christ and said: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”; and Jesus replied: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me…? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn. 14:8-9) These words were spoken during the farewell discourse at the end of the paschal supper, which was followed by the events of those holy days during which confirmation was to be given once and for all of the fact that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5)
The Israelites certainly knew God. Many people experienced the God of the Old Testament as very much like a person, and with moods and feelings: certainly loving and tender, but also vindictive and angry. Jesus clarified this for those who followed God. Without getting into “How could we have been so wrong?” I prefer to think of the revelation of the Father in Christ to be another stage in getting to know God.
For the Christian believer, if we wish to know God, we go to Jesus first. Not the Old Testament. Perhaps not the rues and regulations of the Church. But Jesus. And we attend carefully to his words.
The quality of mercy is introduced through Jesus, and his Paschal Mystery, well-cited in Ephesians 2, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
That’s a good p lace to leave off for today. Any comments?
Dives in Misericordia is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana