From Archbishop em. Robert Zollitsch DD, Freiburg, for schoenstatt.org – a contribution to the series: What does the Holy Year of Mercy mean? •
On 13 March 2013 Francis was elected Pope. On Sunday 17 March he prayed the Sunday Angelus on St Peter’s Square for the first time. On that occasion he told the people, “In these days I read a book by a good theologian, a really good theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper. The book did me so much good, so much good. Cardinal Kasper said that everything changes when the word mercy is uttered.” This is what Pope Francis also thinks. Because God’s name, and what characterises and distinguishes God best of all, is mercy. “ “To show mercy”, the Pope said, “is an essential feature of God. This is precisely how he shows his omnipotence.”
So Pope Francis also proclaimed the “extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”. “In this time of epochal change” he wants to help us to experience in a new way that God is a God who is close to us, a “God with us”. God’s closeness is revealed most directly in what we call mercy.
Jesus did not come to hand over to us the stone tables of the Ten Commandments once more. He became man, one of us, in order to share everything with us. He came to heal our illnesses, and to turn towards all who are unable to help themselves, who are in need and depend on being helped. This also includes people who are guilty. Jesus has compassion on us, and turns to us with love and mercy, as he expressly illustrated in the parables of the merciful Samaritan, the prodigal son and merciful father.
In the Holy Year of Mercy Pope Francis invites us to get to know God in a deeper way as the Father, and as God who turns to us in fatherly love.
His aim, therefore, is to open up to us the mystery of God’s heart more deeply, by making us aware of what is meant when we say, as the Pope put it, that mercy is “an essential feature of God”, indeed that it is “a key word for God’s actions towards us”. Because “God reveals his power above all in mercy and through sparing us”. And that is something we cannot take for granted. It causes not only us, but also the Pope, to marvel, so that he states, “Mercy is the most surprising attribute of our Creator and Redeemer.” It is the application of the all-transcending statement in everyday life, that God is a God of affection and love. It makes God’s love for us an experienced reality.
Encounter: Fr. Joseph Kentenich and Robert Zollitsch in Milwaukee
This Father-God not only shelters us in his love and mercy. He reaches out his hand to us, invites us to take it, to enter into his offer of a covenant, and to walk the pilgrim path of faith in our covenant with him. He does this not with a condescending affection from above, but by becoming a human being in his incarnate Son, who became wholly God with us: Jesus, “the face of the Father’s mercy”, guides us “to trust in the infinite mercy of our Father-God” “in all questions”, as Fr Joseph Kentenich encourage us to do.
In this Mary accompanies us in the covenant of love. She who under the Cross witnessed the words of forgiveness he uttered, which are “the highest from of forgiveness for those who crucified him”, knows the lengths to which God’s mercy goes. “God’s mercy is without end.” She helps us and encourages us to shelter ourselves in the “boundless mercy of God”.
Original: German. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, England