“The Church Professes the Mercy of God and Proclaims It.” So we head into section 13 with this title. St John Paul begins a final summary, having cited a number of Scriptural references, especially the parable of the two sons. We also looked a good bit into the theology of justice and mercy. Then we took stock of the 1980 world situation, which seems to have no lessening of anxieties in the intervening years.
If Jesus preached mercy, it is part of our mandate as Church to take up that task:
The Church must profess and proclaim God’s mercy in all its truth, as it has been handed down to us by revelation. We have sought, in the foregoing pages of the present document, to give at least an outline of this truth, which finds such rich expression in the whole of Sacred Scripture and in Sacred Tradition.
Liturgy is part of this:
In the daily life of the Church the truth about the mercy of God, expressed in the Bible, resounds as a perennial echo through the many readings of the Sacred Liturgy.
As is popular piety:
The authentic sense of faith of the People of God perceives this truth, as is shown by various expressions of personal and community piety. It would of course be difficult to give a list or summary of them all, since most of them are vividly inscribed in the depths of people’s hearts and minds.
The intellectual tradition of the Church has not neglected mercy:
Some theologians affirm that mercy is the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God, and the Bible, Tradition and the whole faith life of the People of God provide particular proofs of this. It is not a question here of the perfection of the inscrutable essence of God in the mystery of the divinity itself, but of the perfection and attribute whereby (humankind), in the intimate truth of (our) existence, encounters the living God particularly closely and particularly often. In harmony with Christ’s words to Philip,(Cf. Jn. 14:9-10) the “vision of the Father”-a vision of God through faith finds precisely in the encounter with His mercy a unique moment of interior simplicity and truth, similar to that which we discover in the parable of the prodigal son.
I think we’ve touched on this before, but mercy is not simply a theological or theoretical quality far beyond us. It is also a singular outreach from the Lord to every person. John Paul’s own philosophy of Christian personalism would not let this pass without comment. We were invited deep into the story of the lost son, and or those moments when we find congruency to that tale, we have the opportunity to enter more deeply into the experience of mercy. That would be in contrast to the elder son, who stands aloof, and for whom mercy is unknown as a personal experience.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana