"Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy," says the Holy Father, in the opening line of Misericordiae Vultus, his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Father is "rich in mercy" (Ph 2:4); has revealed Himself to Moses as "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6); sent His only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal His love for us in a definitive way.
Indeed. I get that. That is my only hope in life and in death, and I've staked my life on it, as many of us have. But I know that I am not good enough a man to be moved to forsake my sins and flee to the bosom of the Father simply by knowing that He is there to welcome me. The power of sins is not negligible; and the standard of perfect contrition (to "detest all my sins ... because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love") is not low or easy. No, in the absence of such love, a lowly sinner such as I often finds that the only thing that will move him is imperfect contrition (to "dread the loss of Heaven and pains of Hell"). This, at least, may move me.
But what will move the many who don't seem to have the foggiest idea that they are even sinners? What can possibly move them? Well, yes, the Holy Ghost, of course; but we find that even the Holy Ghost usually uses human instruments:"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rm 10:14)
But if the preacher preaches nothing but mercy and love, what then? How can Christ be the "answer" to people who have no idea what the "question" is? I know God's offer of mercy and pardon is extended to all, even if few there be who take it. Yes, God is merciful. But taking the long historical view, what do we see? We may still be living under the aegis of an age of mercy; but as I observe happenings throughout the world and the Church, I fear we may be rapidly transitioning to an age of judgment. Our Blessed Mother has been clear enough about this in her many and diverse warnings, just as her divine Son has been in His words about the fullness of time in Sacred Scripture. Have we forgotten, too, that the opposite of an indifferent God is not only a God of love and mercy, but of just wrath and chastisement?
- Sandro Magister, "A Jubilee By Popular Acclaim" (www.chiesa, December 4, 2015): "Mercy for all except the hierarchical Church, too closed-off and backward to deserve the pope’s forgiveness."
- Augustinus, "'God is Father and Mother': as Jubilee of Mercy nears, Francis calls for 'revolution of tenderness' and criticizes his own Church" (Rorate Caeli, December 3, 2015).