The fundamental attribute of God
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
In these past weeks I have been savouring the brilliant book which Cardinal Walter Kasper penned about theever actual theme of Mercy. Its title goes Mercy: The essence of the Gospel and the key to Christian life. Its rather long but straightforward title is an overt invitation for everyone to grab it and read it thoroughly and reflectively. In the upper part of this dark blueish book’s cover stands Pope Francis’ eye-catching comment: “This book has done me so much good”.
In his book on Mercy Cardinal Kasper singles out mercy as the attribute which incorporates all of God’s attributes. In page 88 this erudite Cardinal writes: “Mercy expresses God’s essence, which graciously attendsto and devotes itself to the world and to humanity in ever new ways in history. In short, mercy expresses God’s own goodness and love. It is God’s caritas operativa et effectiva. Therefore, we must describe mercy as thefundamental attribute of God”.
It is visibly clear that this thought regarding God’s mercy is greatly influencing the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis. The very fact that this Argentinean Pope has instituted this Jubilee Year of Mercy by itself shows how this leading attribute of God is closely knit to his Petrine heart. I would like to share with you some quotes that crop up in Pope Bergoglio’s papacy. The speak by themselves about what he means by mercy.
In the homily he gave at the parish of St. Anne’s in the Vatican City on Sunday March 17, 2013, the Holy Father said: “I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy”.
For those who entrust themselves in God’s mercy with an open heart and with the ardent desire to let God’s grace transform them into the “new man” (Eph 2:15), mercy becomes their forgiveness. Within the same homily Pope Francis observes: “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ ‘All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!’ He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more’ (Jn 8:11)”.
But mercy is received from God in order to be given gratuitously to others! In his homily which Pope Francis gave on Saturday evening at a prayer vigil for the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3, 2016, he said: “How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy! This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness. Themore we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized.”
The distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized are within my reach. Hence, am I courageous enough tooffer to run an errand for a busy parent or homebound person? Am I ready to drive or accompany an elderly person to the Church for Mass? Do I respect my own humanity by making a list of those whom I consider as my “enemies” and each and every single day I say a prayer for them and bless them? Am I really caring for others to put down my phone and really listen to someone else with eye contact? Do I offer to babysit for a busy mom so that she can go out and have a couple of hours to herself?
Do not these simple examples amply show that mercy is the fundamental quality not only of God but also of us, humans?