MOSAIC Spring 2016 - Page 16

Love Judgment TRIUMPHS OVER Pope Francis’s insights on mercy answer the difficult question: How can God be both full of mercy yet fully just? Dr. Eduardo Echeverria G od is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4). But what is mercy? Mercy is the face of God’s love turned toward sinners, searching them out, and offering them pardon and salvation. Says Pope Francis in his newly released book on mercy, “Etymologically, ‘mercy’ derives from misericordi[a], which means opening one’s heart to wretchedness. . . . Mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God’s giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive” (The Name of God is Mercy [NG], no. 8). He adds in his papal bull announcing the Year of Mercy, “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus [MV], no. 3). God’s mercy is the expression of his fundamental love. Yet, to understand properly the reality of God’s merciful pardon and how it is that mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas 2:13), we cannot minimize the wrath of God. God’s wrath is his response to the sins of men (Eph 2:4)—his holy displeasure against their sin (NG, no. 32) that entails the breaking of communion with him (MV, no. 2)—as the expression of his fundamental justice, righteousness, and holiness. 14 Sacred Heart Major Seminary | Mosaic | Spring 2016 Mercy and Justice When we reflect on mercy, the question naturally arises about the relationship of mercy to justice. God is not merciful at the expense of his justice. Mercy does not exclude his justice, nor is it opposed to it (MV, no. 21). How could divine mercy do either? “God’s justice is his mercy given to everyone [oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences] as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (MV, no. 21), says the Holy Father. God’s justice entails his taking sin seriously, indeed, “of all the injustice we have committed before God” (NG, no. 58), by virtue of taking away and atoning for our guilt in history. In the reality of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, there is a turning from real wrath to real grace. Pope Francis explains, “Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgment on all of us and on the whole world” (MV, no. 21). Here Pope Francis echoes St. John Paul II, who teaches that God has shown us his justice and mercy “in the cross of Christ, on which the Son, consubstantial with the Father, renders full justice to God.” His death on the cross, John Paul adds, “is also a radical revelation of mercy, or rather of the love that goes against what constitutes the very root of evil in the history of man: against sin and death” (Dives in Misericordia [DM], no. 8, emphasis added). Jesus Christ’s finished work is the full and sufficient cause of our salvation. He has undergone the cross because of our