What impulse does Jesus at the crucifixion give us? St John Paul acknowledges this is a difficult encounter. But we also have the Lord as encountered in the needy of Matthew 25. These form the basis of a mutuality, and we’ve discussed it before. We show mercy to Christ as he has shown to us.
In this sense Christ crucified is for us the loftiest model, inspiration and encouragement. When we base ourselves on this disquieting model, we are able with all humility to show mercy to others, knowing that Christ accepts it as if it were shown to Himself.(Cf. Mt. 25:34-40) On the basis of this model, we must also continually purify all our actions and all our intentions in which mercy is understood and practiced in a unilateral way, as a good done to others.
How do we avoid this sense of service like an “NGO” as has been cited by Pope Francis and others?
An act of merciful love is only really such when we are deeply convinced at the moment that we perform it that we are at the same time receiving mercy from the people who are accepting it from us. If this bilateral and reciprocal quality is absent, our actions are not yet true acts of mercy, nor has there yet been fully completed in us that conversion to which Christ has shown us the way by His words and example, even to the cross, nor are we yet sharing fully in the magnificent source of merciful love that has been revealed to us by Him.
It occurs to me that some day we might be able to link across the lay-clergy divide with some mutual giving and receiving of mercy. I’m not sure we have quite arrived there yet with our competing offenses of remarriage, abuse cover-up, and such. But it would be a sparkling opportunity if we could manage it.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana