Page 6, 5th December 1980

5th December 1980
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Page 6, 5th December 1980 — THE MERCY OF GOD REVEALED IN CHRIST
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THE MERCY OF GOD REVEALED IN CHRIST

IT IS "God, who is rich in mercy" whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is his very Son who. in himself, has manifested him and made him known to us.

Man and man's lofty calling are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love.

For this reason it is now fitting to reflect on this mystery. It is called for by the varied experiences of the Church and of contemporary man. It is also demanded by the pleas of many human hearts, their sufferings and hopes, their anxieties and expectations.

In this way, in Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in his mercy; Not only does he speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all he himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He himself, in a certain sense, is mercy. To the person who sees it in him — and finds it in him — God becomes "visible" in a particular way as the Father "who is rich in mercy".

The present day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of "mercy" seem to cause uneasiness in mart, who, thanks to. the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it.

This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a onesided and superficial way, seems to leave no room for mercy.

The truth, revealed in Christ, about God the "Father of mercies", enables us to "see" him as particularly close to man, especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity. And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today. many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God.

They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ himself. who through his Spirit works within human hearts. For the mystery of God the "Father of mercies" revealed by Christ becomes, in the context of today's threats to man, as it were a unique appeal addressed to the Church. In the present Encyclical I wish to accept this appeal; I wish to draw from the eternal and at the same time — for its simplicity and depth — incomparable language of revelation and faith, in order through this same language to express once more before God and before humanity the major anxieties of our time.

I therefore wish these considerations to bring this mystery closer to everyone. At the same time I wish them 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 realise it.

The Messianic message

Before his own townspeople, in Nazareth, Christ refers to the words of the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord".

These phrases, according to Luke, are his first messianic declaration. They are followed by the actions and words known through the Gospel. By these actions and words Christ makes the Father present among men.

It is very significant that the people in question are especially the poor, those without means ot subsistence, those deprived of their freedom, the blind who cannot see the beauty of creation, those living with broken hearts. or suffering from social injustice, and finally sinners.

It is especially for these last that the Messiah becomes a particularly clear sign of God who is love, a sign of the Father.

Especially through his life-style and through his actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live — an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty.

Making the Father present as love and mercy is, in Christ's own consciousness, the fundamental touchstone of his mission as the Messiah.

On the basis of this way of manifesting the presence of God who is Father, love and mercy, Jesus makes mercy one of the principal themes of his preaching.

W hen one speaks of preaching.

One encounters a problem of major importance with reference to the meaning of terms and the content of concepts, especially the content of the concept of -mercyin vela:kinship to the concept of "lore").

A grasp of the content of these concepts is the key to understanding the very reality of mercy. And this is what is most important for us, However. before devoting a further part of our considerations to this subject. that is to say, to establishing the meaning of the vocabulary and the content proper to the concept of "mercy", we must note that Christ, in revealing the lovemercy of God, at the same time demanded from people that they also should be guided in their lives hy love and mercy.

This requirement forms part of the very essence of the messianic message, and constitutes the heart of the Gospel ethos.

The Old Testament

1111 concept of "mercy" in the Old Testament has a long

and rich history. We have to refer back to it in order that the mercy revealed by Christ may shine forth more clearly.

By revealing that mero, both through his actions and through his teaching. Christ addressed' himself' to people who not only knew the concept of mercy, but who also, as the people of God of the Old Covenant, had drawn from their agelong history a special experience of the mercy of God.

It is significant that in their preaching the prophets link mercy, which they often refer to because of the people's sins, with the incisive image of love on God's part.

In the preaching of the prophets mercy signifies a special power of love, which prevails over the sin and infidelity of the chosen people.

In this broad "social" context, mercy appears as a correlative to the interior experience of individuals languishing in a state of guilt or enduring every kind of suffering and misfortune, Both physical evil and moral evil, namely sin, cause the sons and daughters of Israel to turn to the Lord and beseech.his mercy.

At the root of this manysided conviction, which is both communal and personal, and which is demonstrated by the whole of the Old Testament down the centuries, is the basic experience of the chosen people at the Exodus: the Lord saw the affliction of his people reduced to slavery, heard their cry, knew their sufferings and decided to deliver them.

The Old Testament encourages people suffering from misfortune, especially those weighed down by sin — as also the whole of Israel, which had entered into the covenant with God — to appeal for mercy, and enables them to count upon it: it reminds them of his mercy in times of failure and loss of' trust.

Subsequently, the Old Testament gives thanks and glory for mercy every time that mercy is made manifest in the life of the people or in the lives of individuals.

In this way, mercy is in a certain sense contrasted with God's justice, and in many cases is shown to be not only more powerful than that justice but also more profound.

Even the Old Testament teaches that, although justice is an authentic virtue in man, and in God signifies transcendent perfection, nevertheless love is "greater" than justice: greater in the sense that it is primary and fundamental. Love, so to speak, conditions justice and, in the final analysis, justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-a-vis justice — this is a mark of the whole of revelation — are revealed precisely through mercy.

Mercy differs from justice, hut is not in opposition to it, if we admit in the history of man — as the Old Testament precisely does — the presence of God, who already as Creator has linked himself to his creature with a particular love.

Love, by its very nature. excludes hatred and towards the one to whom he once gave the gift of himself: Nihil odisti eorum quae fecisti, "you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence". These words indicate the profound basis of the relationship between justice and mercy in God, in his relations with man and the world.

Connected with the mystery of creation is the mystery of the election, which in a special way shaped the history of the people whose spiritual father is Abraham by virtue of his faith. Nevertheless. through this people which journeys forward through the history both of the Old Covenant and of the New, that mystery of election refers to every man and woman. to the whole great human family.

This truth. once proclaimed to Israel. involves a perspective of the whole history of man, a perspective both temporal and eschatological. Christ reveals the Father within the framework of the same perspective and on ground already prepared, as many pages of the Old Testament tx rit ngs demonstrate.

Parable of the Prodigal Son

I N THE

teaching of Christ himself this image ( of mercy) inherited from the Old Testament becomes at the same time simpler and more profound,

This is perhaps most evident in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Although the word "mercy" does not appear, it nevertheless expresses the essence of the divine mercy in a particularly clear way.

(There now follows a detailed examination of the parable itself.) In the parable of the Prodigal Son. the term "justice" is not used even once: just as in the original text the term "mercy" is not used either.

Nevertheless, the relationship between justice and love, that is manifested as mercy, is inscribed with great exactness in the content of the Gospel parable. It becomes more evident that love is transformed into mercy when it is necessary to go beyond the precise norm of justice — precise and often too narrow.

The prodigal son, having wasted the property he received from his father, deserves — after his return — to earn his living by working in his father's house as a hired servant and possibly, little by little, to build up a certain provision of material goods, though perhaps never as much as the amount he had squandered.

This Would be demanded by the order of' justice, especially as the son had not only squandered the part of the inheritance belonging to him but had also hurt and offended his father by his whole conduct.

Since this conduct had in his own eyes deprived him of his dignity as a son, it could not be a matter of indifference to his father. It was bound to make him suffer. It was also bound to implicate him in some way. And yet, after all, it was his own son who was involved, and such a relationship could never be altered or destroyed by any sort of behaviour. The prodigal son is aware of this and it is precisely this awareness that shows him clearly the dignity which he has lost and which makes him honestly evaluate the position that he could still expect in his father's house.

This exact picture of the prodigal .son's state of mind enables us to understand exactly what the mercy of God consists in. There is no doubt that in this simple but penetrating analogy the figure of the father reveals to us God as Father.

The father of the prodigal son is faithful to his fatherhood. faithful to the love that he had always lavished on his son. This fidelity is expressed in the parable not only by his immediate readiness to welcome him home when he returns after having squandered his inheritance; it is expressed even more fully by that joy, that merry-making for the squanderer after his return.

The father's fidelity to himself — a trait already known by the Old Testament term hesed — is at the same time expressed in a manner particularly charged with affection.

Nevertheless, the causes of this emotion are to be sought at a deeper level. Notice, the father is aware that a fundamental good has been saved: the good of his son's humanity. Although the son has squandered the inheritance, nevertheless his humanity is saved. Indeed, it has been, in .a way, found again.

This love is able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin.

What took place in the relationship between the father and the son in Christ's parable is not to be evaluated "from the outside". Our prejudices about mercy are mostly the result of appraising them only from the outside.

At times it happens that by following this method of evaluation we see in mercy above all a relationship of inequality between the one offering it and the one receiving it. And, in consequence, we are quick to deduce that mercy belittles the receiver, that it offends the dignity of man.

The parable of the prodigal son shows that the reality is different: the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of trite dignity that is proper to him.

This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth (this vision in truth is a genuine form of humility); on the other hand, for this very reason he becomes a particular good for his father: the father sees so clearly the good which has been achieved thanks to a mysterious radiation of truth and love, that he seems to forget all the evil which the son had committed.

The parable of the prodigal son expresses in a simple but profound way the reality of conversion. Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and of the presence of mercy in the human world.

The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man.

Understood in this way. mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of his mission, His disciples and followers understood and practised mercy in the same way.

Mercy never ceased to reveal itself, in their hearts and in their actions, as an especially creative proof of the love which does not allow itself to be "conquered by evil", but overcomes "evil with good".

The Paschal mystery

THE messianic message of Christ and his activity among people end with the Cross and Resurrection. The events of Good Friday and, even before hat, the prayer in Gethsemane, introduce a fundamental change into the

whole course of the revelation of love and mercy in the messianic mission of Christ.

The one who "went about doing good and healing" and "curing every sickness and disease" now himself seems to merit the greatest mercy and to appeal for mercy, when he is arrested, abused, condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, when he is nailed to the Cross and dies amidst agonizing torments. It is then that he particularly deserves mercy from the people to whom he has done good, and he does not receive it.

Even those who are closest to him cannot protect him and snatch him from the hands of his oppressors. At this final stage of his messianic activity the words which the prophets, especially Isaiah, uttered concerning the Servant of Yahweh are fulfilled in Christ: "Through his stripes we are healed".

Christ, as the man who suffers really and in a terrible way in the Garden of Olives and on Calvary, addresses himself to the Father — that Father whose love he has preached to people, to whose mercy he has borne witness through all of his activity. But he is not spared — not even he — the terrible suffering of death on the Cross.

The paschal mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man and, through man, in the world.

The suffering Christ speaks in a special way to man, and not only to the believer. The non-believer also will be able to discover in him the eloquence of solidarity with the human lot, as also the harmonious fullness of a disinterested dedication to the cause of man, to truth and to love.

And yet the divine dimension of the paschal mystery goes still deeper. The Cross on Calvary, the Cross upon which Christ conducts his final dialogue with the Father, emerges from the very heart of the love that man, created in the image and likeness of God, has been given as a gift, according to God's eternal plan.

God, as Christ has revealed him, does not merely remain closely linked with the world as the Creator and the ultimate source of existence. He is also Father: he is linked to man, whom he called to existence in the visible world, by a bond still more intimate than that of creation.

It is love which not only creates the good but also grants participation in the very life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For he who loves desires to give himself. The Cross of Christ on Calvary stands beside the path of that admirabile commerciunt, of that wonderful self-communication of God to man, which also includes the call to man to share in the divine life by giving himself, and with himself the whole visible world, to God, and like an adopted son to become a sharer in the truth and love which is in God and proceeds from God.

What else, then, does the Cross of Christ say to us, the Cross that in that in a sense is the final word of his messianic message and mission?

Believing in the crucified Son means "seeing the Father", means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love.

The Cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man's earthly existence.

In the Paschal Mystery the limits of the manysided evil in which man becomes a sharer during his earthly existence are surpassed: the Cross of Christ, in fact, makes us understand the deepest roots of evil, which are fixed in sin and death; thus the Cross becomes an eschatological sign.

Only in the eschatological fulfilment and definitive renewal of the world will love conquer, in all the elect, ihe deepest sources of evil, bringing as its fully mature fruit the kingdom of life and holiness and glorious immortality.

The fact that Christ "was raised the third day" constitutes the final sign of the messianic mission, a sign that perfects the entire revelation of merciful love in a world that is subject to evil.

At the same time it constitutes the sign that foretells "a new heaven and a new earth", when God "will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death, or mourning, no crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away". In the eschatological fulfilment mercy will be revealed as love, while in the temporal phase, in human history, which is at the same time the history of sin and death, love must be revealed above all as mercy and must also be actualised as mercy. Christ's messianic programme, the programme of mercy, becomes the programme of his people, the programme of the Church. At its very centre there is always the Cross, for it is in the Crossthat the revelation of merciful love attains its culmination.

In his Resurrection Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because he accepted the Cross as the way to the Resurrection.

Here is the Son of God, who in his Resurrection experienced in a radical way mercy shown to himself, that is to say the love of the Father which is more powerful than death.

And it is also the same Christ, the Son of God, who at the end of his messianic mission — and, in a certain sense, even beyond the end — reveals himself as the inexhaustible source of mercy, of the same love that, in a subsequent perspective of the history of salvation in the Church, is to be everlastingly confirmed as more powerful than sin. Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. No one has experienced to the same degree as the Mother of the Crucified One. the mystery of the Cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love; that "kiss" given by mercy to justice.

Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God's mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy.

Mercy from generation to generation

WE HAVE every right to believe that our generation too was included in the words of the Mother of God when she glorified that mercy shared in "from generation to generation" by those who allow themselves to be guided by the fear of God.

The words of Mary's Magnifica have a prophetic content that concerns not only the past of Israel but also the whole future of the People of God on earth.

The present generation knows that it is in a privileged position: progress provides it with countless possibilities that only a few decades ago were undreamed of.

But side by side with all this, or rather as part of it, there are also the difficulties that appear whenever there is growth. There is unease and a sense of powerlessness regarding the profound response that man knows that he must give.

Thus, in our world the feeling of being under threat is increasing. There is an increase of that existential fear connected especially, as I said in the Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, with the prospect of a conflict that in view of today's atomic stockpiles could mean the partial self destruction of humanity.

But the threat does not merely concern what human beings can do to human beings through the means provided by military technology; it also concerns many other dangers produced by a materialistic society which — in spite of "humanistic" declarations — accepts the primacy of things over persons.

Contemporary man, therefore, fears that by the use of the means invented by this type of society, individuals and the environment, communities, societies and nations can fall victim to the abuse of power by other individuals, environments and societies.

An instance is the continued existence of torture, systematically used by authority as a means of domination and political oppression and practised by subordinates with impunity.

Together with awareness of the biological threat, therefore, there is a growing awareness of yet another threat, even more destructive of what is essentially human, what is intimately bound up with the dignity of the person and his or her right to truth and freedom.

All this is happening against the background of the gigantic remorse caused by the fact that, side by side with wealthy and surfeited people and societies, living in plenty and ruled by consumerism and pleasure, the same human family contains individuals and groups that are suffering from hunger. There are babies dying of hunger under their mothers' eyes. The state of inequality between individuals and between nations not only still exists; it is increasing.

This is why moral uneasiness is destined to become even more acute. It is obvious that a fundamental defect, or rather a series of defects, indeed a defective machinery is at the root of contemporary economics and materialistic civilization, which does not allow the human family to break free from such radically unjust situations.

This uneasiness is experienced not only by those who are disadvantaged or oppressed. but also by those who possess the privileges of wealth, progress and power.

It is linked with the very sense of man's existence in the world, and is an uneasiness for the future of man and all humanity; it demands decisive solutions, which now seem to be forcing themselves upon the human race.

It is not difficult to see that in the modern world the sense of justice has been reawakening on a vast scale: and without doubt this emphasizes that which goes against justice in relationships between individuals, social groups and "classes", between individual peoples and states, and finally between whole political systems, indeed between what are called "worlds".

The Church shares with the people of our time this profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every aspect, nor does she fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice that the life of people and society demands.

And yet, it would be cliMcult not to notice that very often programmes which start from the idea of justice and which ought to assist its fulfilment among individuals, groups and human societies, in practice suffer from distortions.

Although they continue to appeal to the idea of justice, nevertheless experience shows that other negative forces have gained the upper hand over justice, such as spite, hatred and even cruelty.

In such cases, the desire to annihilate the enemy, limit his freedom, or even force him into total dependence, becomes the fundamental motive for action; and this contrasts with the essence of justice. which by its nature tends to establish equality and harmony between the parties in conflict.

The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimen4ions.

The Church, having before her eyes the picture of the generation to which we belong, shares the uneasiness of so many of the people of our time.

Moreover, one cannot fail to be worried by the decline of many fundamental values, which cSnstitute an unquestionable good not only for Christian morality but simply for human morality, for moral culture: these values include respect for human life from the moment of conception, respect for marriage in its indissoluble unity, and respect for the stability of the family. Moral permissiveness strikes especially at this most sensitive sphere of life and society.

Hand in hand with this go the crisis of truth in human relationships, lack of responsibility for what one says, the purely utilitarian relationship between individual and individual, the loss of a sense of th,e authentic common good and the ease with which this good is alienated.

Finally, there is the "desacralization" that often turns into "dehumanization": the individual and the society for whom nothing is "sacred" suffer moral decay. in spite of appearances.

Mercy of God is the mission of the Church

TIIE Church must profess and proclaim God's mercy in all its truth, as it has been handed down to us by revelation.

The Church professes the mercy of God, the Church lives by it in her wide experience of faith and also in her teaching, constantly contemplating Christ, concentrating on him. on his life and on his Gospel. on his Cross and Resurrection, on his whole mystery.

The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ. In fact. it is precisely this drawing close to Christ in the mystery of his Heart which enables us to dwell on this point — a point in a sense central and also most accessible on the human level — of the revelation of the merciful love of the Father, a revelation which constituted the central content of the messianic mission of the Son of Man.

Of great significance in this area is constant meditation on the word of God, and above all conscious and mature participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of penance or reconciliation.

The Eucharist bring us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death: "For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup", we proclaim not only the death of the Redeemer but also his Resurrection, "until he comes" in glory. The same Eucharist riktl, celebrated in

memory of him who in his messianic .mission revealed the Father to us by means of his words and his Cross, attests to the inexhaustible love by virtue of which he desires always to be united with us and present in our midst, coming to meet every human heart.

It is the sacrament of penance or reconciliation that prepares the way for each individual, even those weighed down with great faults.

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite.God, is also infinite.

Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father's readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to his home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which Flow continually from the marvellous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it.

On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent.

Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering his mercy.

The contemporary Church is profoundly conscious that only on the basis of the mercy of God will she be able to carry out the tasks that derive from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and, in the first place, the ecumenical task which aims at uniting all those who confess Christ.

As she makes many efforts in this direction, the Church confesses with humility that only that love which is more powerful than the weakness of human divisions can definitively bring about that unity which Christ implored from the Father and which the Spirit never ceases to beseech for us "with sighs too deep for words".

Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called "to practise mercy" towards others: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". The Church sees in these words a call to action, and she tries to practise mercy.

This authentically evangelical process is not just a spiritual transformation realized once and for all: it is a whole life-style, an essential and continuous characteristic of the Christian vocation.

In reciprocal relationships between persons merciful love is never a unilateral act or process. Even in the cases in which everything would seem to indicate that only one party is giving and offering, and the other only receiving and taking ... in reality the one who gives is always also a beneficiary.

Thus, the way which Christ showed to us in the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitude regarding those who arc merciful is much richer than what we sometimes find in ordinary human opinions about mercy. These opinions see mercy as a unilateral act or process. presupposing and maintaining a certain distance between the one practising mercy and the one benefiting from it, between the one who does good and the one who receives it.

Hence the attempt to free interpersonal and social relationships from mercy and to base them solely on jutice. However. such opinions about mercy fail to sec the fundamental link between mercy and justice.

Mercy that is truly Christian is also, in a certain sense, the most perfect incarnation of "equality" between people, and therefore also the most perfect incarnation of justice as well, insofar as justice aims at the same result in its own sphere.

Society can become "ever more human" only when we introduce into all the mutual relationships which form its moral aspect the moment of forgiveness, which is so much of the essence of the Gospel.

Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful than sin. Forgiveness is also the funda mental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.

For this reason, the Church must consider it one of her principal duties — at every stage of history and especially in our modern age — to proclaim and to introduce into fife the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ.

It is precisely in the name of this mystery that Christ teaches us to forgive always. It is obvious that such a generous requirement of' forgiveness does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice. Properly understood, justice constitutes, so to speak, the goal of forgiveness. In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult.

Thus the funamental structure of justice always enters into the sphere of mercy. Mercy, however, has the power to confer on justice a new content, which is expressed most simply and fully in forgiveness.

The Church rightly considers it her duty and the purpose of her mission to guard the authenticity of forgiveness, both in life and behaviour and in educational and pastoral work. She protects it simply by guarding its source, which is the mystery of the mercy of God himself as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Prayer of the Church in our time

THE Church proclaims the truth of God's mercy revealed in the crucified and Risen Christ, and she professes it in various ways.

Furthermore, practise mercy towards people through people, and she sees in this an indispensable condition for solicitude for a better and "more human' world, today and tomorrow.

However, at no time and in no historical period — especially at a moment as critical as our own — can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of' evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it.

Modern man often anxiously wonders about the solution to the terrible tensions which have built up in the word and which entangle humanity. And if at times he lacks the courage to utter the word "mercy", or if in his conscience empty of religious content he does not find the equivalent, so much greater is the need for the Church to utter this word, not only in her own name but also in the name of all the men and women of our time.

Everything that I have said in the present document on mercy should therefore he continually transformed into an ardent prayer: into a cry that implores mercy according to the needs of man in the modern world..

And, if any of our contemporaries do not share the faith and hope which lead me, as a servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God, to implore God's mercy for humanity in this hour of history. let them at least try to understand the reason for my concern. It is dictated by love for man, for all that is human and which, according to the intuitions of many of our contemporaries, is threatened by an immense danger.

In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, in the spirit of his messianic mission, enduring in the history of humanity, we raise our voices and pray that the Love which is in the Father may once. again be revealed at this stage of history. and that, through the

work of the Son and Holy Spirit, it may be shown to be present in our modern world and to be more powerful than evil: more powerful than sin and death.

The reason for her (the Church's) existence is, in fact, to reveal God, that Father who allows us to "see" him in Christ. No matter how strong the resistance of human history may be, no matter how marked the diversity of contemporary civilization, no matter how great the denial of God in the human world, so much the greater must be the Church's closeness to that mystery which, hidden for centuries in God, was then truly shared with man, in time, through Jesus Christ.

With my Apostolic Blessing.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the thirtieth day of November, the First Sunday of Advent, in the year 1980, the third of the Pontificate.

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