Advent, a time of mercy

Mercy is at the same time, a gift (a gift from God), a sign of the unity between truth and love; and, in our time, a culture thatWe, especially Christians, have to promote.

December 17, 2018-Reading time: 5 minutes

As Christmas approaches, we can say: God is at the door. God's salvation has been compared to a door. The door has an arch and mercy can be seen as the keystone, bovéda key, that holds the arch. Mercy as gift, sign and culture is a good way to stand at the gates of Christmas.

What St. John XXIII already called "the medicine of mercy" (cf. Opening Speech of the Second Vatican Council(October 11, 1962) is one of Pope Francis' keys to the renewal of the Church.
Piero Coda writes about this in an essay on Francis' thought (La Chiesa è il Vangelo, Città del Vaticano 2017): "Mercy - God's gift - is the prism for looking at and witnessing to the joyful and liberating truth and transforming power of the Gospel" (p. 111).

According to R. Cantalamessa, "mercy is not a substitute for truth and justice, but a condition for finding them" (in "L'Osservatore Romano", 30-III-2008).

For St. Augustine," observes Coda, "as long as one does not understand that the meaning of every truth and commandment expressed in Sacred Scripture is charity, one is far from understanding the truth (cf. From Doctrina Christiana, I, 36.40).

Thus, Coda believes that the primacy of mercy - as a style of life and mission proposed by Francis - is above all "a crucible of purification for the life of the Church and for the discernment of the life of her presence in history" (p. 112).

This is, as the Italian theologian understands, the real keystone or cornerstone of the apostolic exhortation. Amoris laetitiaIt is not a matter of discounting the truth of the call to evangelical perfection, but of becoming one with each person in order to open with love, from the interior of each situation, the path that leads to God" (Ibidcf. 1 Cor 9:22).

Hence, we can see mercy, at the same time, as a gift (a gift from God), a sign of the unity between truth and love; and, in our time, a culture thatWe, especially Christians, must promote. Let us take a closer look at each of these three aspects.

2. Mercy, gift and sign. Therefore, when Francis says that the Church is a "field hospital," it is an eloquent image that translates the style of Jesus expressed in the parable of the Good Samaritan, as Paul VI pointed out at the end of the Second Vatican Council and the Argentine pope picked up in his document of convocation to the Year of Mercy. It is worth rereading this long quote: "We would rather note how the religion of our Council has been primarily charity... The ancient story of the Samaritan has been the guideline of the Council's spirituality... A current of affection and admiration has flowed from the Council to the modern world. It reproved errors, yes, because charity demands it, no less than truth, but, for people, only invitation, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, the Council has sent to the contemporary world encouraging remedies, instead of dismal omens, messages of hope: its values have not only been respected but honored, its ceaseless efforts sustained, its aspirations purified and blessed... There is something else we must emphasize: all this doctrinal richness is directed in a single direction: to serve man. Man in all his conditions, in all his weaknesses, in all his needs" (Paul VI, Allocution, 7-XII-1965).

In our times, Piero Coda maintains that, in the face of the wounds that affect us - not only physical and material wounds, but also those that infect the heart, soul and spirit, intelligence and will -, "to speak of field hospital makes us intuit the gravity of the situation in which humanity finds itself, torn by an ideological war in which the truth and the very beauty of the image of God in man, created as male and female to reflect in creatures the life of fruitful communion of the Most Holy Trinity, are at stake" (pp. 113 f).

It is a matter of confronting, "with the strongest medicine which is mercy as a witness to the truth of love", the constant attempt, present in the history of humanity, to twist God's creative plan.

And he thinks that if mercy were to be internalized in the mind and heart and assumed as a criterion of judgment and action, it would facilitate a realistic vision of politics, economics and law.
So much for the reflection of Piero Coda. It is very interesting to see mercy as a witness or sign that effectively communicates the union between truth and love.

3. Every day of our life is time of mercy and we Christians must work for a more culture of mercy.

The Pope noted at the end of the Year of Mercy: "This is the time of mercy. Every day of our life is marked by the presence of God, who guides our steps with the power of the grace that the Spirit instills in the heart to shape it and make it capable of love. It is the time of mercy for each and every one, so that no one may think that he or she is outside the nearness of God and the power of his tenderness. It is the time of mercyIt is the time of mercy, so that the weak and defenseless, those who are far away and alone, may feel the presence of brothers and sisters who support them in their needs. It is the time of mercy, so that the poor may feel the gaze of respect and attention of those who, overcoming indifference, have discovered what is fundamental in life. It is the time of mercy, so that every sinner may never cease to ask for forgiveness and to feel the hand of the Father who always welcomes and embraces" (Apostolic Letter "The Father's Love"). Misericordia et misera, 20-XI-2016)

If this is "every day", what will it not be in a time such as Advent, which leads to Christmas; for at Christmas the Incarnation of the Son of God has become visible and with it our salvation?

Finally, how can a culture of mercy be shaped or made possible? This is Francis' answer:
"The culture of mercy is shaped by assiduous prayer, docile openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, familiarity with the life of the saints and concrete closeness to the poor. It is a pressing invitation to be clear about where we must necessarily commit ourselves. The temptation to remain in the 'theory of mercy' is overcome to the extent that it becomes a daily life of participation and collaboration" (Letter of the Holy Father). Misericordia et miseraat the conclusion of the Year of Mercy, n. 20).

When he speaks of closeness to the poor, it is appropriate to take into account "new forms of poverty and fragility where we are called to recognize the suffering Christ (...): the homeless, drug addicts, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly lonely and abandoned; migrants (...); the various forms of human trafficking (...); women who suffer situations of exclusion, abuse and violence" (Evangelii gaudium210-212).

That is to say that we must care for the poor, whether they are poor materially, morally, culturally or spiritually. And in practice, this will give us many occasions to exercise the works of mercy and spiritual.

Ultimately, mercy is a gift of God that comes to us continuously if we are willing to receive it. And so, every day is time of mercy. It is also a signRecalling the classic definition of sacrament (sign and instrument of saving grace), one could say that mercy is an "efficacious sign" of the unity between truth and love.

And to paraphrase what John Paul II said about faith, it could be said that mercy must become a culture so that it can be a mercy that is fully accepted, fully thought out and faithfully lived.

The authorRamiro Pellitero

Degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Santiago de Compostela. Professor of Ecclesiology and Pastoral Theology in the Department of Systematic Theology at the University of Navarra.

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