Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
A friend of mine gave me a book which is enriching my spiritual and pastoral life. I am referring to the book by Pope Francis The name of God is Mercy.
This fabulous book is precisely a frank and friendly conversation of the actual Argentinian Pontiff with the Italian journalist and vaticanist, Andrea Tornielli. This easy read book gives us a powerful insight into the Holy Father’s vision of mercy. It spells out how this vision can effectively influence the Church starting from its highest echelons till its grassroots.
I was very touched to read a quote about the importance of mercy taken from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message; it is the name of God Himself, the face with which He reveals Himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of creative and redemptive love. This love of mercy also illuminates theface of the Church, and is manifested through the sacraments, in particular that of reconciliation, as well as in works of charity, both of community and individuals. Everything that the Church says and does, shows that God has mercy for man” (page 5).
When Tornielli asked Pope Francis what does mercy mean to him the Holy Father replied: “Jesus said he came not for those who were good but for the sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who do not need the doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say that mercy is God’s identity card. God of Mercy; merciful God. For me, this really is the Lord’s identity card” (pages 6-7).
For Pope Francis mercy is not an abstract idea. It has been made visible to him through other merciful priests he has met throughout his journey. Among the priests that inspired him to journey in God’s mercy was a confrere, a Capuchin priest. Thus, the Pope recounts:
“I recall another great confessor who was younger than I, a Capuchin priest with a ministry in Buenos Aires. One day he came to see me and he wanted to talk. He said: ‘I need your help. I always have so many people at the confessional, people of all walks of life, some humble and some less humble, but many priests too … I forgive alot and sometimes I have doubts, I wonder if I have forgiven too much’. We talked about mercy and I asked him what he did when he had those doubts. This is what he said: ‘I go to our chapel and stand in front of the tabernacle and say to Jesus: «Lord, forgive me if I have forgiven too much. But you’re the one who gave me the bad example». I will never forget that. When a priest experiences receiving mercy like that, he can give it to others” (pages 10-11).
Andrea Tornielli asked Pope Francis about the importance of going to confession. And why isn’t enough for one to repent and just ask God directly for forgiveness without the need of going to a priest. Here is how the Holy Father replied:
“Jesus said: ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you withold forgiveness of any; it is witheld’ (John 20:19-23). Therefore, the apostles and all their successors – the bishops and their colleagues the priests – become instruments of themercy of God. They act in persona Christi. This is very beautiful. It has deep significance because we are social beings. If you are not capable of talking to your brother about your mistakes, you can be sure that you can’t talk about them with God, either and therefore you end up confessing into the mirror; to yourself… Forgiveness has a social implication; my sin wounds mankind, my brothers and sisters, society as a whole. Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus. It’s a way to be real and authentic: we face thefacts by looking at another person and not in the mirror” (pages 19-20).
Why not get a copy of this life transforming book? The precious gift can become yours as well!