The second encyclical of Pope John Paul II was Dives in Misericordia (The Mercy of God, November 30, 1980). In this encyclical he speaks elaborately on God’s mercy, as revealed in the Bible. This is a reflection in the light of this encyclical.
The core of divine revelation seen in the Old Testament is the experience of God’s mercy by the chosen people when they were liberated from the slavery of the Egyptians. God revealed His divine nature to Moses for the first time as a God who heard their cry, who knew their suffering and therefore decided to deliver them (Ex.3:7-8). In this act of salvation by the Lord, the Israelites down through the centuries perceived God’s love and compassion.
Among the many attributes of God seen in the Old Testament,” Mercy” is the most remarkable attribute of God. God Himself declared this attribute of Him to Moses when He made the solemn covenant with the Israelites. He revealed Himself that, He was a “God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). This is the foundation upon which the Israelites, based their certainty of the mercy of God, which can be invoked whenever moral and physical tragedies struck them. Whenever the Israelites sinned, it is this experience of God’s Mercy which gave them strength and the motive for turning to the Lord to seek His forgiveness. (cf.Joel2:12-14, Neh.9:17).
In the light of this we can also understand why the psalmists, when they desire to sing the highest praises of the Lord, break forth into hymns to the God of love, tenderness, mercy and fidelity. To cite a few examples:
- “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps.136:1f).
- “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps.23).
- “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old”(Ps.25:6).
- “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (Ps.51:1f).
- “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps.103).
Pope Francis in his decree at the beginning of this year of Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus sums up the mystery of Christian faith by stating that, “Jesus Christ is the Face of Father’s Mercy.” The Father rich in mercy after having revealed his name to Moses as a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, has never ceased to show in various ways through history his divine nature. Jesus in whom we have the fullness of divine revelation is the face of the Father who is full of mercy.
The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible towards us, he desires our well-being and he wants to see us happy, full of joy and peaceful. We are invited to enter through the “Holy door” of God’s Mercy which is ever opened in front of us, and experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.