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Time of mercifulness of God, meditation based on pope’s bull Misericordiae vultus (MV)

Friday, April 29, 2016

We're almost halfway through the duration of the jubilee year of dedication to the Divine Mercy, that unexpectedly was announced by Pope Francis last year. Holy Father is emphasizing popes of the last century that we live in a time of God's mercy. Released on this occasion bull Misericordiae vultus (MV), contains the main points of this program for this year and proposals for various forms of this celebration. One of them, apart from the pilgrimage to certain places and temples associated with the devotion to the Divine Mercy, was the incentive to achieve the retreat, which would have to explain to the faithful of the Christian a doctrine of the mercy of God, as the center of the Gospel preached, and encouragement of his practice. The idea was to note that the main act of God toward us was and is now the moment of his mercy extended to us at every step, especially in the forgiveness of sins; this should encourage us to follow God, following the main motto of the whole jubilee year: "Be merciful as your Father" (MV 13).This is the practice of itself a charity towards our neighbor.

Why this year is called the Year of Mercy?
Why the mercy of God was taken as the theme of this jubilee year? This question is answered by Pope very clearly: we live in a time of God's mercy and we need His mercy the most in the world today. If we would like to quote the words of John XXIII, who opened the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago, Pope Francis says: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity” (MV 4). Moreover, St. John Paul II said: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to the concept from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated. This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy … And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God” (MV 11). “The Church, finishes Pope Francis, 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. The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception” (MV 12).

Mercifulness of God in Old Testament
Throughout the Old Testament we can see the image of God as Father, who is merciful, because His visage is the most distinctive in the history of Israel as the chosen nation. Israel knew about this and that’s why the sages are written down in the Psalms. The events presented in Psalms are related to their history and they are a manifestation of the revealed God’s mercy; which is expressed in the refrain of the 136 Psalms that repeats after each verse: “His (God’s) mercy endures forever.” Pope Francis concludes: “Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation. To repeat continually ‘for his mercy endures forever’, as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity men will always be under the merciful gaze of the Father. It is not an accident that people of Israel wanted to include this psalm –the great Hallell” – as it is called – in its most important liturgical feast days” (MV 7). Psalm as "the great imperatives" was included among the most important liturgical texts of Israel, and it was recited in the important moments of their history. No wonder Jesus also prayed after his Passover meal (cf. Mt 26,30). Against this background it is not surprising why the prophet Jonah was based on a mission to convert the heathen Nineveh, because he knew that God who is merciful, bestow the grace of forgiveness also its pagan inhabitants, did not want, and what happened.

Jesus Christ – the face of the Father’s mercy
The first sentence of the bull is already surprising accuracy of postings: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy”. In these words popes sums up the mystery of the Christian faith. God the Father “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, sent his only Son into the world, to reveal his love. (MV 1) Since then, Jesus of Nazareth through the words and gestures of his entire person reveals the mercy of God, so that: “Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father” (J 14:9). “Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (MV 8). The height of this attitude tilts the mercy of the fate of every human, every misfortune was his death, reminiscent of any other death, deserted and devoid of human dignity, and its cross form and sacramental fruits of the resurrection showed the depth and effectiveness of the liberating mercy of God.

God does not follow a human logic
It is very interesting story show the merciful face of God the Father is revealed in the three parables of Jesus: the lost sheep, the lost drachma and the prodigal son (Luke 15,1-32) (see. MV 9). Clash of the content of these stories, taken from the daily lives of their listeners with the true actual reality shows a completely different logic of God's actions, directed precisely through mercy. Thus, for example, lost the "black" sheep with such solicitude Finding the shepherd at the expense of the other 99 sheep, never, in fact, would not be saved, because reasonable shepherd pays her rather kill would not have gone for it other than to save her. But God takes this lost if it were the only one existing, and is pleased with its recovery. Likewise with the lost drachma, money expresses one-day earnings of poor people. A woman who lost it, it makes a lot of effort to find her, and finding enjoys his neighbor if she found a huge treasure. We know the parable of the prodigal son, the father, when the man left him and went his twisted way of life, every day waiting for his return, and he enjoys when he finally returns. Moreover, to the displeasure of his elder son, is doing a great feast, he regained it over. That is the God who does not use human logic, but rejoices in the return of any lost, because everyone here is at a premium. So, God sees us when we are away from Him by sin.

''Church a 'field hospital''
Pope Francis reminds of his encyclical earlier about the joy of the Gospel that the Church - as an institution of salvation through Jesus left on - should serve the world in the field hospital, which collects from the battlefield of the world and the wounded victims and treat them the balm of mercy and love of God. On the battlefield, Christians, living the spirit of Christ, to act as if the role of paramedics who ambulances conveyance of the wounded and the sick to the doctor-Christ to heal them this word of God and the sacraments of the Church - the signs of God's mercy. First of all, imitating the merciful Father, we have to be merciful. First, the Pope reminds Christians of the basic principles of coexistence of interpersonal taken from the Gospel: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:37-38). Pope Francis also encouraged to practice forgotten corporal works of mercy (to feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead) and spiritual once (to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonished sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who make us ill, and pray for the living and the dead) (MV 15). Especially those spiritual works of mercy are very often neglected could be for us a large field for effective action.

Mercifulness of God – expression of the justice of God in Christ
The last doctrinal point in the bull is to show the relationship between justice and mercy of God. As noted by the Pope, “these are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love” (MV 20). You have to guard against the temptation to be guided in life only so-called civic justice takes into account the fulfillment of the law, and in the case of religion, the law of God. The Pharisees fell into the trap ex. Religious legalism covering the original meaning and obscuring the profound value that has the righteousness of God: “In the Sacred Scripture justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will” (MV 20), which inherently involves mercy. In this context we can better understand the words of Jesus who is saying to the Pharisees: “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). The truth is that none of us itself cannot stand righteous before God, because only He can justify us and cleanse our sinfulness; which also happened in the sacrifice of Christ, to whom we have access by faith. In this perspective, as St. Paul taught: in the Sacred Scripture justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will” (MV 20). If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that law be respected. God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness” (MV 21). Of course, anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God, then, does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it in the salvific offering of Jesus Christ. (MV 21). Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgment on all of us and on the whole world, because through it, he offers us the certitude of love and new life” (MV 21).

How to celebrate the Year of Jubilee?
At the end, it remains us to celebrate this year's anniversary of the mercy of God. Pope recommends reading the Bible and spiritual reading, especially those of the mercy of God. Meditate on it every day to see the merciful action of God in our lives (MV 13). Pilgrimage to designated places (MV 14) to get the Jubilee plenary indulgence, by having recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Here is what he writes on the subject: ”In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even that this. It becomes indulgent on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather that to fall back into sin” (MV 22). During Lent, but not only, to use the time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, practicing on a daily basis of the said works of mercy (MV 15-17). Eventually, it is recommend to the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, which is an effective mediator, "Ark of the Covenant between God and men," and the other saints who contributed to the discovery of the mystery of Divine Mercy (MV 24).