‘It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and He manifests His omnipotence particularly in this way’.12 Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words show that God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of His omnipotence. For this reason the liturgy, in one of its most ancient collects, has us pray: ‘O God, who reveal your power above all in your mercy and forgiveness…’13 Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy, and merciful.

‘Patient and merciful.’ These words often go together in the Old Testament to describe God’s nature. His being merciful is concretely demonstrated in His many actions throughout the history of salvation where His goodness prevails over punishment and destruction.

In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of His merciful action: ‘He forgives all your iniquity, He heals all your diseases, He redeems your life from the pit, He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy’.14 

Another psalm, in an even more explicit way, attests to the concrete signs of His mercy: ‘He executes justice for the oppressed; He gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners, He upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.’ 15

Here are some other expressions of the Psalmist: ‘He heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds… The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; He casts the wicked to the ground.’ 16

In short, the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals His love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a ‘visceral’ love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.

 

Pope Francis ‘Misericordia Vultus’ Paragraph 6.
12 Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 30. a. 4.
13 XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time. This Collect already appears in the eighth century among the euchological texts of the Gelasian Sacramentary (1198).
14 Ps 103:3-4
15 Ps 146:7-9
16 Ps 147:3, 6

This article can be found in Mirror 0815.