Posted on: 2015-12-13
Source: Fr John ‘Toye Olayiwola

The present day mentality, more than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact, tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart, the very idea of mercy (St Pope John Paul II)

The Mercy of God

While different religions may be referring to different divine beings as their gods and objects of worship, they almost have some meeting point when it comes to giving the attributes of the beings. Let us however, limit ourselves here to those speak of the Supreme Being: God. Some of the features of God include: omniscience, omnipresence, al-mightiness, al-greatness, al-powerfulness.  Now, let us imagine how the world will look like with such a powerful God that lacks mercy! Let us think of how life will be if God is to almighty without being merciful! Indeed, the greatest and the best attribute of God, which can NEVER be exhausted is his mercy; for “mercy will always be greater than any sin” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 3). This is true because that is the real nature of God who is love. The word mercy, in Hebrew, “hesed” likewise translates the love or the kindness of God. So, when we talk of the mercy of God, we keep in mind the love, the kindness, the forgiveness, the tolerance, the forbearance of God. Hence, it is within the mercy of God that all his other features have meaning. God is infinite in greatness of his mercy beyond telling which makes us to say that he is truly great. God is omnipresent because of his mercy which makes him to be present everywhere so as to attend to his people.

All divine acts can be interpreted from the dimension of his merciful love. It was out of this merciful that he created the world. It was out of this mercy that he promised victory over the ancient serpent. No wonder the Jubilee Year of Mercy is to start on December 8, the Feast Immaculate Conception, for it was on this day that God began the plan to redeem the world out of his mercy. It was out of love that Jesus accepted to take become flesh (see Jn 1:14). As a result of his love, he became ombudsman as Fulton Sheen called him: the only innocent one which took the guilt of the sinful humanity upon himself so as to liberate it.  As seen from the superscription, because the world itself is losing the sense of mercy not only towards nature as we abuse it, but also towards human beings, the world denies the mercy of God. What more, God so loved the world that he gave it his Only Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life (read Jn 3:16). This has imparted on the teachings of many belief-systems to present a wrong image of God, so fearful that many prefer not to think about him at all; or to lose hope of reaching him.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way, must penetrate the heart and mind of every person” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 12). After his resurrection and shortly before his ascension, the Lord Jesus gave an important mission to his disciples to go into the whole to proclaim the Good News. This Good News has as its heart, the mercy of God. It is consequent upon this that the Holy Father has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  Those who are familiar with the traditional understanding of the word jubilee may begin to wonder why Jubilee. Any attempt to interpret this year from the usual conception of its occurrence at every fifty or twenty years; or any step in the direction of its comparison with the great jubilee of the year 2000 will miss the point. The idea of jubilee goes with a call to rejoicing or celebration which springs from freedom granted to those in captivity. Meanwhile, on the side of God, the basis of granting freedom to humanity which was for long held in bondage to sin is his mercy. This mercy is experienced every day. Therefore, the Holy Father declares so that we may constantly meditate on and mediate the mercy of God in the world.

The Confessional

Despite all that has done for humanity, it remains frail and constantly tends to sin. Consequently, God continues to show mercy to sinners. The image of the father in the parable in Lk 15: 11-32 who welcomes the prodigal son who squandered his properties is that of God in his agony to welcome sinners back to himself. There is a place where we experience this face to face, real and raw: the Confessional.  It is there we go to God, humbly admitting our sins and begging for his mercy which he is ever ready to grant. Hence, in this special year, the Pope has encouraged we go take more seriously confessions. We now live in a world where confession and those who go for it are ridiculed. We live a world soaked in vices but people do not feel the need to approach God for mercy. We are in a world where many think it does not make any sense confessing one’s sins to a priest, a human being; forgetting the words of the Lord in Jn 20:22-23 and the words of the apostle James (see Jam 5:16).

One of the benefits in this Holy Year is the privilege given to priests to absorb all kinds of penitents, including those in sins reserved to bishops. Truly, it is a year to experience in a new way, the mercy of God who does not want the death of a sinner but his or her repentance. It is a wise thing that many who the fear of going to the bishops to be absorbed has made them to abstain from confession while carrying the sense of guilt, to hasten to the Confessional. It is likewise a challenge for many priests who have abandoned confessionals to make themselves available for the people of God.

Concurrently, the Holy Father has granted a special indulgence: partial remission of the punishment due to a sin, to those who will go through the Holy Door: a special door set aside in the Vatican Cathedral, diocesan cathedral or any other church so designated. Passing through this door symbolises passing through the mercy of God. Not only this, those who will go on Holy Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and other places set apart for the purpose will receive special blessing and mercy of God.

Peace in the World

Our world cherishes peace and longs for it but seems to have missed the path to the true and lasting peace. It is the way of mercy. In this Holy Year, the Pope calls us to merciful to one another. This message is not limited to just only Christians but extends to all those who believe in the mercy of God, especially the Muslims and the Jews (Pope Francis, no 23). As such, this Year calls for a serious inter-faiths and religious dialogue. It teaches that peace is not brought about by wars but by dialogue, openness and understanding. In a world torn apart by terrorism, the Year of God’s Mercy assures us that if we learn to show mercy to one another, peace will be restored.

We Are All Involved

In the course of this Year, the Missionaries of Mercy will be sent out. These are priests selected or volunteered to go into the peripheries; to go to areas and those who are dearly in need of God’s mercy. Areas already devastated by wars and the poor. Nonetheless, this is not a mission meant for just a few. It is a mission in which we should be all involved. It does not matter our state and status in the Church and in the world. As fathers and mothers, we should be missionaries of mercy. We should be evangelists of the mercy of God, first to the members of our families and then to others. Similarly, we should not forget to assist in any way we can, those special missionaries of mercy.

The Danger

A careless reading of this article and other related to this Holy Year will produce a result already foresaw: taking the mercy of God for granted. There is the danger of sweeping everything under the carpet of God’s mercy. Some may take it to be a license to go on sinning. It only means that such do not properly understand the nature of the mercy of God. Of course, it an endless mercy but it is not just a loving mercy, it is equally the just mercy. It is the mercy that goes out in search of sinners and embraces him or her. But it is also the mercy that out of mercy, punishes those who refuse to embrace this charity. So, as we go through this Holy Year, let us enjoy the mercy of God; but let us not fail to show mercy to those around us. It is a time to let go. A time to forgive that deep wound created in us by the one least expected. May Mary, the Mother of Mercy, intercede for the whole world. May the world recognise this moment of favour and thus embrace the mercy of God. May we all become preachers and givers of God’s mercy to those around us.