The past 3 years, basically since I graduated from seminary, have been some of the most difficult years of my faith journey. I’ve experienced at times what has felt like scourging failure and rejection, vicious depression and fear, and even heart-shattering despair in my relationships, spirituality, and vocational calling. The Name of God is Mercy is restoring my faith and bringing healing into my heart and soul at a time when life can feel meaningless, brutal, cruel, and perplexing. Pope Francis reveals God’s unfailing love and mercy despite our own human drama and the pain we endure in various seasons of life. He says, “mercy is God’s identity card,” despite our failures and frailties or the hurtful and toxic ways religious leaders, those close to us, and even we ourselves have responded to our own failures and frailties as human beings whom God deeply and eternally loves in Christ. God is unfailingly good, faithful, loving and merciful even when life feels bad and we feel bad about ourselves. This is the amazing beauty and power of the Good News of Jesus — the God who came down in humility to save, heal and restore us and all of creation. Pope Francis envisions a “Church that doesn’t reproach [human beings] for their fragility and their wounds but that treats them with the medicine of mercy” (p. xi).
Here are 10 quotes from The Name of God is Mercy that are healing my soul, mending my heart, and restoring my faith as I am led back to Jesus each day in this refining period of my life:
“Etymologically, ‘mercy’ derives from misericordis, which means opening one’s heart to wretchedness. And immediately we go to the Lord: mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God’s giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said he came not for those who were good but for the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who do not need the doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say that mercy is God’s identity card. God of Mercy, merciful God. For me, this really is the Lord’s identity” (p. 9).
“We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this too: we don’t believe there is a chance at redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet. We need mercy” (p. 16)
“I have always said that the Lord precedes us, he anticipates us. I believe the same can be said for his divine mercy, which heals our wounds; he anticipates our need for it. God waits; he waits for us to concede him only the smallest glimmer of space so that he can enact his forgiveness and his charity within us. Only he who has been touched and caressed by the tenderness of his mercy really knows the Lord. For this reason I have often said that the place where my encounter with the mercy of Jesus takes place is my sin. When you feel his merciful embrace, when you let yourself be embraced, when you are moved — that’s when life can change because that’s when we try to respond to the immense and unexpected gift of grace, a gift that is so overabundant it may even seem ‘unfair’ in our eyes. We stand before a God who knows our sins, our betrayals, our denials, our wretchedness. And yet he is there waiting for us, ready to give himself completely to us, to lift us up” (p. 34).
“It is important that I go to confession, that I sit in front of a priest who embodies Jesus, that I kneel before Mother Church to dispense the mercy of Christ. There is objectivity in this gesture of genuflection before the priest; it becomes the vehicle though which grace reaches and heals me. I have always been moved by the gesture in the tradition of Eastern Churches, where the confessor welcomes the penitent by putting his stole over the penitents head and an arm around his shoulder, as if embracing him. It is the physical representation of acceptance and mercy. We are reminded that we are not there to be judged. It’s true that there is always a certain amount of judgement in confession, but there is something greater than judgement that comes into play. It is being face-to-face with someone who acts in persona Christi to welcome and forgive you. It is an encounter with mercy” (p. 23).
“Divine mercy contaminates humanity. Jesus was God but he was also a man, and we see human mercy in his person. When there is mercy, justice is more just, and it fulfills its true essence” (p. 80).
“Why does God never tire of forging us? Because he is God, because he is mercy, and because mercy is the first attribute of God. The name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand, in which the more we move the deeper we sink. Jesus is there, his had extended, ready to reach out to us and pull us out of the mud, out of sin, out of the abyss of evil into which we have fallen. We need only to be conscious of our state, be honest with ourselves, and not lick our wounds. We need to ask for the grace to recognize ourselves as sinners. The more we acknowledge that we are in need, the more shame and humility we feel, the sooner we will feel his embrace of grace. Jesus waits for us, he goes ahead of us, he extends his hand to us, he is patient with us. God is faithful. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, no one can put a limit on the love of the all-forgiving God” (p. 85-86).
“Jesus moves according to a different logic. At his own risk and danger he goes up to the leper and restores him, he heals him. In so doing, he shows us a new horizon, the logic of God who is love, a God who desires the salvation of all [people]. Jesus touched the leper and brought him back into the community. He didn’t sit down at a desk and study the situation, he didn’t consult the experts for pros an cons. What really mattered to him was reaching stranded people and saving them, like the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to save one lost sheep. Then, as today, this kind of logic and conduct can be shocking, it provokes angry mutterings from those who are only ever used to having things fit into their preconceived notions and ritual purity instead of letting themselves be surprised by reality, by a greater love or a higher standard. Jesus goes and heals and integrates the marginalized, the ones who are outside the city, the ones outside the encampment. In so doing he shows us the way” (p. 65-66).
“The more conscious we are of our wretchedness and our sins, the more we experience the love and infinite mercy of God among us, and the more capable we are of looking upon the many ‘wounded’ we meet along the way with acceptance and mercy. So we must avoid the attitude of someone who judges and condemns from the lofty heights of [their] own certainty[…]” (p.67).
(Popre Francis quotes Pope Benedict XVI) “Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message; it is the name of God himself, the face with which he revealed himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, incarnation of Creative and Redemptive Love. This love of mercy also illuminates the face of the Church, and is manifested through the Sacraments, in particular that of the Reconciliation, as well as in works of charity, both of community and individuals. Everything that the Church says and does [should] show that God has mercy for [human beings]” (p. 7).
“[God] does not want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, his medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses that he has to heal” (p. 34).
There you have it! I guess I’m a Post-Evangelical, Pope-Loving, Protestant now 😉