Articles : The Three Realities of Mercy: Integrating Mercy Into Our Lives In The Year of Mercy And Beyond

Posted on: 2016-01-12
Source: Rev. Fr. PeterPaul A. Akinola

Dear friends in Christ, from the 8th of December (The Solemnity of Immaculate Conception) 2015 to the 20th of November, 2016, the Holy Father has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy, with the intent of calling the people of God to an appreciation of God's mercy and much more for priests to manifest the more the merciful face of God.

How do we appreciate what we do not know, or better still, what we do not understand? How is it possible to manifest what has not been experienced? These questions form the hinges on which a meaningful Year of Mercy will be fixed in such a way that it will produce a transforming effect in the lives of individuals and the ecclesial body as a whole and not just be ranked among the many declared 'years' that were at best intellectually observed without any meaningful transformative effect in the life of the faithful.

As such, I have decided to look into the realities of mercy as (1) A Divine Attribute (2) Man's need to open himself to mercy and (3) The reciprocative nature of mercy.

Before we begin our navigation, it is expedient in my view to briefly consider the possible import of the days within which the Year is fixed. The commencement, apart from the fact that it marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vatican II Council, also falls on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary - The Immaculate Conception can be said to be the greatest act of mercy shown by God on an individual, which makes the said individual to be full of grace (cf Lk. 1:28) - it is mercy bestowed as a preventive measure against the temptations of the evil one. On the other hand, the closing date falls on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, that is, the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, the One who alone will judge the living and the dead, and if he should mark our guilt, who will stand (cf. Ps. 130:3). Without mincing words, these days have been specially inspired by the Holy Spirit to show us that the mercy of God has no limit and that we need to open ourselves to this mercy for salvation.

What is Mercy?

What exactly is mercy? In our everyday use, mercy is a bestowal of that which the other does not have a right to. Its usage is basically in two perspectives; it is a giving unto another that which is not his right and it also connotes the pardoning of the others in a manner that he has no merit to claim. This definition sets mercy in the conception of many against justice, as justice is the virtue which gives to every being all that is due to it.

It is only in God and through God by extension that justice and mercy meet (Ps. 85:10), and this is due to the fact that God's justice is not commutative, that is, a give and take kind of Justice, the type that is found in trading where no party is cheated. In the case of God, He owns all (cf. Ps 24:1) and does not need any exchange from man, rather the justice of God is distributive, by which He gives to all according to need (cf. Matt 20:15).

Mercy as a divine attribute.

It is the very nature of God to be merciful since as earlier said, his justice is not commutative, as such whatever He gives is given first and foremost not as an exchange! In Deut 4:31, the scriptures show us that it is in the nature of God to be merciful (cf. Neh 9:31, Lk 6:36) and this is given freely as earlier said (cf. Ex. 33:19, Rm 9:15-18).

The manifestations of God's mercy are clearly seen in that God creates us and bestows every good on us (cf. Gen 1:27-28). When we transgress against him, He forgives us (Is 3:16-18, Ps 51:1-2), He is faithful to His covenant (cf. Deut 13:17-18) and always ready to welcome us back unto himself even when we are not faithful (cf. Lk. 15). Also, God heals us (Phil 2:27) and is ever ready to save us from our enemies, seen and unseen (Ps. 28:6-7).