Let’s wrap up our discussion with Pope John Paul II on “The Incarnation of Mercy,” the title for section 2 of his encyclical letter. We pick up on the graceful appeal of Christ to Christian believers and disciples:
In the present encyclical wish to accept this appeal; I wish to draw from the eternal and at the same time-for its simplicity and depth- incomparable language of revelation and faith, in order through this same language to express once more before God and before humanity the major anxieties of our time.
Every age has its own anxieties, plus the human perceptions involved with these. In other words, we have to navigate not only our own personal blind spots, but those of our culture as well. I might have written “cultures,” because the vision of the Church is not always clear in regard to the most serious problems we face. Like any other human institution, we can make errors, and miss important challenges.
What does John Paul tell us? God is not an abstraction. Mercy is not a quality to be studied, but an experience of grace to receive, and to pass on to others:
In fact, revelation and faith teach us not only to meditate in the abstract upon the mystery of God as “Father of mercies,” but also to have recourse to that mercy in the name of Christ and in union with Him. Did not Christ say that our Father, who “sees in secret,”(Mt. 6:4, 6, 18) is always waiting for us to have recourse to Him in every need and always waiting for us to study His mystery: the mystery of the Father and His love?(Cf. Eph. 3:18; also Lk. 11:5-13)
Not only study, I would say. But experience this mystery, glimpse it as part of our own concrete experience with God in prayer as well as in action.
I therefore wish these considerations to bring this mystery closer to everyone. At the same time I wish them to be a heartfelt appeal by the Church to mercy, which humanity and the modern world need so much. And they need mercy even though they often do not realize it.
If Karl Rahner proposed the so-called “anonymous Christian,” it would seem we also have a great need among us human beings, though many of us are less aware of our need.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana