As we continue to ponder Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Mercy of God, we are reminded that God has given all people a revelation of His being “in the things that have been made” through which “ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived.” (See Romans 1:20)
However, “this indirect and imperfect knowledge, achieved by the intellect seeking God” (think about how many people consider their appreciation of the power and beauty of nature as enough for them!) “….falls short of the ‘vision of the Father’….His invisible nature….becomes visible in Christ and through Christ, through His actions and His words, and finally through His death on the cross and His resurrection.” And the Pope reminds us of Saint John’s words: No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. (John 1:18)
As an aside, I want to share what a woman whom I was visiting at her beach house said to me when I looked out her window and told her I thought I’d like to paint the beautiful scene before our eyes: “You’ve already painted it.” She said this smiling, and quite satisfied with her philosophy that making something that can be shared with others through the senses is not really important; simply experiencing it oneself in a personal and “spiritual” kind of way is the only experience of any significance. This is a good example of the Gnostic or Deist or even Buddhist way of looking at the world and whatever seems to speak to us of a deity behind it all. In her way of looking at things, God’s invisible nature has been clearly perceived, and that should be sufficient! But, God the Father has decided that such is NOT sufficient. The picture must be painted, or it is not really painted. He must become truly visible, or He is not visible. His mercy must be made known in the most human and painful situations. So, He decided, “I will come Myself!” “In this way, in Christ and through Christ….God becomes ‘visible’ in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4), says Pope John Paul.
“The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past….tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy….(Our) dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy….Man is growing conscious that the forces he has unleashed are in his own hands and that it is up to him to control them or be enslaved by them….
“The truth, revealed in Christ, about God the Father of mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3), enables us to ‘see’ Him as particularly close….And this is why many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God.” And, of course, this has become especially obvious now, thirty-five years after Pope John Paul wrote these words, as our current Pope Francis has designated the year 2016 as a special Year of Mercy. “They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ Himself, who through His Spirit works within human hearts….
“In fact, revelation and faith teach us not only to meditate in the abstract upon the mystery of God as Father of Mercies, but also to have recourse to that mercy in the name of Christ and in union with Him…..”
” I therefore wish these considerations…to be a heartfelt appeal by the Church to mercy, which humanity and the modern world need so much. And they need mercy even though they often do not realize it.”