Today is the inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. In my visits to a group in prison, where we read and discuss theological and works together, we are reading Walter Kaspar’s book, Mercy. I chose it as our next work because this book was so influential on Pope Francis, who has emphasized mercy in both word and deed in his papacy.
Among the points Kaspar makes is that in God, mercy is the culmination of justice. Not to care at all about justice would make God indifferent to the world’s suffering. God cares about the establishment of justice in the world. But God’s mercy enters into the chaos of the world, chaos that we human beings create, and continually offers possibilities for new growth. Adam and Eve sin, and God makes them new clothes. Cain murders his brother, and God marks him with a sign that no one may kill Cain. The world sins and after the flood, God promises he will never destroy creation with a flood again. From the beginning, in our human chaos, God is merciful.
We also are to be merciful to others because we ourselves have experienced God’s mercy in our own lives. One of the men used the language of regift: the gift of mercy that we receive from God is one that we keep re-gifting to others. (While we may think negatively of a re-gift, in prison with so little in the way of material goods, re-gifting what one has received is both generous and resourceful.)
A good way for each of us to begin this jubilee of mercy, and what will guide my own reflection as part of Advent, is where have I received mercy? Where am I still in need of mercy? And where can I respond to God’s mercy to me (and to our world) and pass it on to others?