God’s mercy makes us “precious jewels in the hands of a good and merciful Father.”
Here below we publish a full English translation of the catechesis Pope Francis delivered at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, on January 27, 2016.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the Sacred Scripture, God’s mercy is present throughout the history of the people of Israel.
With his mercy, the Lord accompanies the journey of the Patriarchs, gives them children despite the condition of infertility and leads them in the paths of grace and reconciliation, as the story of Joseph and his brothers demonstrates (cf. Gen. 37-50). And I think of the many brothers who have grown apart in a family and don’t speak to one another. But this Year of Mercy is a good opportunity to meet again, to embrace and forgive one another and forget about the bad things.
But as we know, in Egypt, life becomes difficult for the people. And it’s precisely when the Israelites are about to succumb that the Lord intervenes and works salvation.
We read in the book of Exodus: “In the course of those many days the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition” (2:23-25).
Mercy cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of the oppressed, to the cry of those who are subjected to violence, enslaved and condemned to death. It is a painful reality that affects every age, including our own, and makes one feel powerless, tempted to harden one’s heart and think about something else. But God “is not indifferent” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2016, 1); he never turns his gaze from human pain. The God of mercy responds and cares for the poor, for those who cry out in despair. God listens and intervenes to save, raising up men capable of hearing the groan of suffering and working on behalf of the oppressed.
And thus begins the story of Moses as mediator of liberation for the people. He confronts Pharaoh to convince him to let Israel go; and he will then guide the people through the Red Sea and the desert to freedom. Moses, whom divine mercy saved from death as a newborn in the waters of the Nile, becomes mediator of that same mercy, allowing the people to be born to freedom, saved from the waters of the Red Sea. And we too in this Year of Mercy can do this work of being mediators of mercy through the works of mercy to draw near, to soothe, to bring unity. So many good things can be done.
God’s mercy always acts to save. It is quite the opposite of the work of those who always act to kill; for example, those that make war. The Lord, through his servant Moses, guides Israel in the wilderness like a son. He forms him in faith and makes a covenant with him, creating a strong bond of love, like that of a father with his son and a groom with his bride.
Divine mercy reaches into everything. God offers a special, exclusive, privileged relationship of love. When he instructs Moses regarding the covenant, he says: “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among the peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6).
Of course, God already possesses all the earth because he created it; but the people becomes for him a different, special possession: his personal “reserves of gold and silver” like the one that King David is said to have donated for the construction of the Temple.
And yet this is what we become for God by upholding his covenant and allowing ourselves to be saved by him. The mercy of the Lord makes man precious, like a personal treasure that belongs to him, that he guards, and in which he takes delight.
These are the marvels of divine mercy, which reaches fulfillment in the Lord Jesus, in that “new and eternal covenant” inaugurated in his blood, which through forgiveness destroys our sins and makes us truly God’s children (cf. John 3:1), precious jewels in the hands of a good and merciful Father. And if we are God’s children and have the possibility of having this inheritance — that of goodness and mercy toward others, let us ask the Lord that in this Year of Mercy we too may do merciful things. Let us open our hearts to reach out to everyone with the works of mercy, the merciful inheritance that God the Father has with us.
Translation by Diane Montagnaof Aleteia’s English edition.