Concilium 2017-4. Mercy
Edited by: Lisa Cahill – Diego Irarrázaval – João Vila-Chã
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis calls mercy “the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth” (no. 311). If the Church is genuinely and truthfully to mediate “God’s unconditional love” (no. 311), then both its theology and its practice must embody mercy as genuine imitatio Christi, as compassion and support for the vulnerable, a mercy premised on justice.
Pope Francis was not the first to recognize the priority of mercy, however. Although this issue of Concilium assesses his contributions, they will be contextualized by broader biblical, historical, and theological perspectives. The “works of mercy” is given a contemporary interpretation; mercy is compared with compassion and justice; the theological, ecclesial, and pastoral significance of mercy is lifted up; and resources in Islam for the human and divine quality of mercy are explored. Turning to concrete meanings of mercy, authors address urgent problems such as the status of women in marriage and family, restorative justice, refugees, and ecology.
This introductionoffers an excellent occasion to commemorate the contributions of Jon Sobrino, S.J., a recently retired longstanding member of the Concilium Editorial Board, and author of the pioneering and influential work, The Principle of Mercy: Taking the Crucified People from the Cross (1994). Sobrino’s celebration of mercy, like his theology as a whole, has been nourished by his daily life in solidarity with the poor of El Salvador, and with his martyred Jesuit brothers (andtwo women co-workers) of the Universidad Centroamericana. Like Francis, Sobrino holds that the “principle of mercy is the basic principle of the activity of God and Jesus, and therefore ought to be that of the church” (Principle of Mercy, 17).
Sobrino defines theology as the intellectual understanding of love (intellectus amoris), and thus of the praxis of God’s compassion, mercy and justice in a suffering world, especially the world of the poor (27-46). Theology in fact begins with the reality of God’s presence in history, confronting and transforming suffering with faith, hope, compassion, love, and justice.
The “Theological Forum” included in this issue turns to recent events appropriately viewed through the lens of mercy. A first essay takes “Brexit” as an illustration of new “popularist” yet anti-democratic trends gaining force in Europe and beyond. Another on the 2016 World Social Forum identifies planetary consequences of political and economic neoliberalism and capitalism, and considers the future of social movements of resistance. A third examines the significance for the struggle against extremist violence of Francis’s 2017 World Day of Peace Message, which commends active nonviolence as a “style of politics for peace.” “Mercy” is a keynote of the pastoral, theological, and ecclesial approach of Pope Francis, who declared 2016 to be the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Announcing the Jubilee in Misericordiae Vultus, he called mercy “a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace” (no. 2), identified mercy as qualities of God and Christ, called mercy “the very foundation of the Church’s life,” and summoned the whole Church “to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters” in mercy. Mercy is “the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope”(no. 10). We hope this special issue of Concilium will help many understand the centrality of mercy in our relation with God and in the renewal of life in the church.
Table of contents
3. Signs of the time
4. Theological forum
Sofía Quipana Quispe – « Conexión con la Misericordia y Compasión que nos habita » : La misericordia, más allá de teorizaciones, tiene que ver con las experiencias y sentidos profundos que habitan en las narraciones de los textos bíblicos, que pueden enriquecerse desde las experiencias de otras espiritualidades, ya que la revelación de la Divinidad va más allá de los escritos considerados como sagrados, para encontrarse con las fuerzas de la Vida y conspirar a favor de la Vida Plena y Digna de todos/as las/os seres.
Teresa Okure – « The New Testament and Mercy » : The study explores the essential character of mercy as “the new testament”, God’s new covenant with humanity. Mercy is born of God’s unconditional and undeserving love for sinful humanity free of charge. Jesus God-Word incarnate embodies and mediates this mercy through the whole of the Christ event. The character of mercy is expressed in vocabulary, in the teachings and actions of Jesus and in Paul. Given freely and unconditionally to all without exception, God’s mercy requires of humans, especially Christians, siblings of Jesus, to cultivate and exercise a merciful mindset as evidence that God’s mercy gene abides in them.
James Keenan – « The evolution of the works of Mercy » : This essay follows from the two fundamental scriptural texts on mercy, The Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10: 25-37) and the Judgment of the Nations, (Matthew 25: 31-46) the varied ways the church received the mandate to be merciful. Defining mercy as “the willingness to enter into the chaos of another”, the essay presents a number of significant instances in which church members rescued others and incorporated them into the community. It concludes arguing that this rescue/incorporation model becomes constitutive of any church based on discipleship.
Stella Morra – « La misericordia, (ri-)forma della chiesa. Una prospettiva strutturale » : Iniziando il Giubileo della Misericordia con la lettera Misericordiae Vultus, Papa Francesco sottolinea che la vita della Chiesa è sostenuta dalla misericordia. Più che retorica, questa affermazione è teologicamente profonda ed ecclesiologicamente programmatica. La misericordia non può essere limitata ad atteggiamenti e azioni individuali, tanto meno a pratiche ascetiche personali, né ridotta a un significato sentimentale. La misericordia struttura tutta la vita della Chiesa, non solo del discepolo o del credente. La misericordia è la forma della dimensione pubblica, visibile, storica e strutturale della comunità dei credenti, compresa la sua vita sacramentale. Su questa linea, la pratica pastorale non cerca di risolvere tutti i problemi, ma di sostenere e incoraggiare tutto il popolo di Dio..
Hille Haker – « Compassion for Justice » : Comparing three concepts of mercy, compassion, and love, this essay describes, first, with Kasper, divine mercy or compassion as a central attribute of God’s love, calling for the same human response to suffering. Second, with Metz, it situates compassion within a political theology, but develops it further as central concept of ethics. Third, with Nussbaum, the essay understands compassion and love as a bridge between political norms of justice and the social realities of injustice and indifference. In the second part, the essay takes up the political-theological lens of historical reason; it interprets compassion for justice as a practice of critical witnessing and resistance, and transformative solidarity. It upholds the anamnetic theology of God’s compassion and mercy as the ultimate divine gift of justice, to be remembered in the face of forgetting and indifference.
Erik Borgman – « A Field hospital after Battle. Mercy as a fundamental characteristic of God’s presence » : The problem with ‘mercy’ is that it often carries with it the suggestion of condescending pity. Thus, mercy is placed over against justice.. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has used the word ‘mercy’ to indicate a central aspect of the Christian faith. For him ‘mercy’ indicates the recognition of all people as created in the image of God and therefore invested with dignity that is to be respected under all circumstances. It leads directly to the preferential option for the poor who, in what seems their lack of dignity, form what Pope Francis calls ‘the periphery’ towards we have to move in order to discover God’s presence among us.
Rotraud Wielandt – « Erscheinungsformen und Reichweite der Barmherzigkeit Gottes im Koran » : Wenn heutige muslimische Theologen mit ihrer Arbeit zu einem vertieften Verständnis der Bedeutung der göttlichen Barmherzigkeit im Islam beitragen möchten, ist das zu begrüßen. Von ihnen darf aber erwartet werden, dass sie auch dem Gewicht der göttlichen Gerechtigkeit im Koran Rechnung tragen, statt Gottes Barmherzigkeit gegen den koranischen Textbefund absolut zu setzen. Tun sie das nicht, dann ist die Frage aufgeworfen, welche Normativität der Koran für sie noch hat.
Linda Hogan – « Restorative Justice. The Bonds of Mercy » : In its philosophy and practice restorative justice seeks to seeks to repair the harm done to victims, to hold offenders accountable and to restore relationships in the community. It draws inspiration from indigenous traditions, including from Canada, USA, New Zealand and Africa, and is also strongly resonant of the vision of justice portrayed in the Jewish and Christian traditions. In its outworking in the criminal justice realm, as well as in the realm of political reconciliation, restorative justice highlights the value of justice infused by and completed by mercy, and given new content through forgiveness.
Deogratias Mutayoba Rwezaura – « The Logic of Unconditional Love: Mercy through the Eyes of Refugees » : The Extraordinary Year of Mercy’s invitation to be merciful like the Father challenged me to reflect on mercy as a name and an action. God is mercy because God loves mercifully. In this essay I reflect on the meaning of mercy from the perspective of refugees as a way of raising refugees’ voices and allowing them to be at the center of seekers of mercy rather than remaining mercy’s pitiable recipients. Given the many travails and tribulations they have gone through, refugees are privileged agents of mercy and reconciliation. Like other people in their condition of suffering they are our teachers and guides towards the vocation of mercy modeled on God’s nature and action.
Astrid Lobo Gajiwala – «Claiming the Right of Mercy in the Family: Voices of Indian Women » : The Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia seen in the context of the recently celebrated Year of Mercy stimulates attention to the need for mercy in the family. A path breaking document, it is an inspiration and a bearer of hope. Where it falls short however, is in its failure to critique the family as a patriarchal space that disadvantages women in many ways, and question gender stereotypes that limit both women and men. This essay uses a gender lens to analyse the Indian context where women are second-class citizens and marriage and the family are frequently instruments of oppression. It opens the door to pastoral initiatives that are more sensitive to the situation of women.
Dennis T. Gonzalez – « Ecological Works of Mercy » : Pope Francis has proposed “care for our common home” as a new work of mercy. This essay is an attempt to specify some ecological works of mercy especially in the context of the Two-Thirds World. For this purpose, the author makes use of some items and insights from Filipino folk and indigenous wisdom, biblical wisdom, church documents, contemporary theology, poetry and creative non-fiction, and the natural and social sciences.