What is Mercy?
Pope Francis explains God’s mercy when he said that God “has the ability to forget… He kisses you, He embraces you, and He says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now, on, sin no more.’ “We ask for the grace of never tiring of asking pardon, for He never tires of pardoning.” Pope Francis went on to say: “It is not easy to trust oneself to the mercy of God, because His mercy is an unfathomable abyss – but we must do it!”
Throughout Scripture and our liturgy we hear about divine mercy; so often, in fact, that we may be tempted to take it for granted. That would be a grievous error. Think with me for a few moments about divine mercy.
Hundreds of times and in many ways throughout Sacred Scripture, the text exults in the mercy of God. We read, for example, that the mercy of God is “great” (1 Kings 3:6); “plenteous” (Ps. 8:5); “tender” (Lk. 1:78) “abundant” (1 Pet. 1:3); it is “from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him” (Ps. 103:17).
In the legal form, mercy is the opposite of justice. Justice is what a person deserves. Mercy is what a guilty person needs.
In His mercy, God reveals that love always trumps justice. Indeed, in his encyclical Rich in Mercy (1980, section 7), Pope John Paul II declared that mercy is “love’s second name.”