St John Paul has an unnumbered heading to Chapter VII. Here we move to the topic of “The Mercy of God in the Mission of the Church.” This constitutes the penultimate theme as we approach two of the final three numbered sections of this document. Here we return from the care of the Blessed Mother and a look at justice in the modern world, and find ourselves confronted by mercy:
In connection with this picture of our generation, a picture which cannot fail to cause profound anxiety, there come to mind once more those words which, by reason of the Incarnation of the Son of God, resounded in Mary’s Magnificat, and which sing of “mercy from generation to generation.”
Anxieties plague us, but we recall the promise of God’s mercy.
The Church of our time, constantly pondering the eloquence of these inspired words, and applying them to the sufferings of the great human family, must become more particularly and profoundly conscious of the need to bear witness in her whole mission to God’s mercy, following in the footsteps of the tradition of the Old and the New Covenant, and above all of Jesus Christ Himself and His Apostles.
So we read the mission of mercy is apostolic, a continuation of the work of the Lord in his public ministry and of his disciples.
The Church must bear witness to the mercy of God revealed in Christ, in the whole of His mission as Messiah, professing it in the first place as a salvific truth of faith and as necessary for a life in harmony with faith, and then seeking to introduce it and to make it incarnate in the lives both of her faithful and as far as possible in the lives of all people of good will.
What is an incarnate mercy? I would interpret this as a real, embodied, and tangible mercy. Not just theory. Not just read out of a book or Psalter. But real and active.
Finally, the Church-professing mercy and remaining always faithful to it-has the right and the duty to call upon the mercy of God, imploring it in the face of all the manifestations of physical and moral evil, before all the threats that cloud the whole horizon of the life of humanity today.
An incarnate mercy makes more real the response we have to the various threats of modern existence.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana