Christ, precisely as the crucified one, is the Word that does not pass away,(Cf. Mt. 24:35) and He is the one who stands at the door and knocks at the heart of every (person),(Cf. Rv. 3:20) without restricting (our) freedom, but instead seeking to draw from this very freedom love, which is not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of man, but also a kind of “mercy” shown by each one of us to the Son of the eternal Father.
Does it seem our participation in the Lord’s mercy is less a command and more an invitation? It really couldn’t be different; a commandment can’t make people into the kind of community that truly reflects the fullness of the Lord and his mission. Human freedom and choice are respected. But the invitation to imitate Christ, and to show him mercy means we must move beyond expectations.
Even those who recognized Jesus as Messiah and Son of God were unwilling to listen to some aspects. Jesus went too far. Heaven forbid that bad things would happen. So too, we must imitate the surprise and the “going too far” of the program of simple religious commandments.
In the whole of this messianic program of Christ, in the whole revelation of mercy through the cross, could (human) dignity be more highly respected and ennobled, for, in obtaining mercy, He is in a sense the one who at the same time “shows mercy”? In a word, is not this the position of Christ with regard to (people) when He says: “As you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me”?(Mt. 25:40) Do not the words of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,”(Mt. 5:7) constitute, in a certain sense, a synthesis of the whole of the Good News, of the whole of the “wonderful exchange” (admirable commercium) contained therein? This exchange is a law of the very plan of salvation, a law which is simple, strong and at the same time “easy.”
The Father recognizes human beings have the potential to imitate Christ. He created us.
And the relationship of justice and mercy is presented not as an antagonism, but as a progression toward divine fulfillment:
Demonstrating from the very start what the “human heart” is capable of (“to be merciful”), do not these words from the Sermon on the Mount reveal in the same perspective the deep mystery of God: that inscrutable unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in which love, containing justice, sets in motion mercy, which in its turn reveals the perfection of justice?
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana