“Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” — BULL OF INDICTION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY
The Holy Father has just declared the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to begin at the end of this year. This year commemorates this great characteristic of God and probably one that all Christians can do better in taking up as part of their mission. If there’s one accusation that Christians at least partly deserve, it’s that we fail to live up to the reputation to be merciful.
We see today how from the left and the right, polemical wars of words over matters of social justice have caused far more division than reconciliation. Discovery of the Truth in some cases has allowed someone to transcend that noise in the discovery of the faith. How many more souls lost due to disinterest in those battles. I’ve spoken in the past about the balance of justice and mercy. I’d suggest that Christians really should seek justice as a means to opportunities to show mercy.
Whether it’s leftist activists who try to bring down rich capitalists so as to remind them of the humanity of the less fortunate, or neo-cons who demand severe punishments and responsibilities for the morally deficient, the Christian viewpoint should cut through those actions to start at the human person always first and foremost as an image and likeness of God, created and destined for love. The Christian viewpoint doesn’t recognize infinite worth any less than other infinite worth. That would be a mathematical error. “Hate the sin and love the sinner” finds its expression in true mercy.
Of course the Truth begins with a recognition of what is sin in the first place. The idea of Natural law suggests that we already should know what is irregular and not in accordance with God’s will in the first place, but I do get that society’s views are warped on this and the norm is becoming obscured. Seeking justice isn’t just about righting that warped nature but it’s also about finding a starting point so as to transcend it to express mercy.
Government welfare is about mercy insofar as no citizen should be reduced to animal-levels of existence due to their own bad choices. Justice would suggest you reap what you sow. No Catholic governor should allow capital punishment within their state, as clemency shows you give people 70 x 7 shots at life; yet justice says an eye for an eye. An undeserving co-worker might get promoted; would we be so lucky – celebrate someone’s reward to better support their family. To the dictates of justice, mercy warps things the other way. Mercy is about unmerited goodness so as to increase the supply of love and life in a world not self-sufficient to generate it on its own, yet constantly squandering this inheritance from the Father.
Christians recognize that life is messy, which is why we need mercy if we’re going to bring surprise and change in the world.
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