People did not expect a God to act through a sacrifice of life. The Paschal Mystery could not have been anticipated. And yet it is an event that beckons us into that great virtue: hope. It strikes me that people who beg God for mercy still retain faith. And we know that great acts of love exist where there is enormous need among people. Hope has always struck me as the virtue most difficult much of the time for those in need. Or maybe that’s more my personal experience. What has yours been?
The Paschal Mystery is Christ at the summit of the revelation of the inscrutable mystery of God. It is precisely then that the words pronounced in the Upper Room are completely fulfilled: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”(Jn. 14:9) In fact, Christ, whom the Father “did not spare”(Rom. 8:32) for the sake of (humankind) and who in His passion and in the torment of the cross did not obtain human mercy, has revealed in His resurrection the fullness of the love that the Father has for Him and, in Him, for all people. “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”(Mk. 12:27) In His resurrection Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because He accepted the cross as the way to the resurrection. And it is for this reason that-when we recall the cross of Christ, His passion and death-our faith and hope are centered on the Risen One: on that Christ who “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, . . .stood among them” in the upper Room, “where the disciples were, …breathed on them, and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'”(Jn. 20:19-23)
In the last paragraph, St John Paul introduced the Trinity as part of the exploration of mercy. Here, we read the Holy Spirit is introduced among the disciples as part of an act of mercy. The Church has always interpreted this mercy as one to be shared.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana