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The Name of God is Mercy

Catechesis by Pope Francis
General Audience, Wednesday 13 January 2016, Paul VI Audience Hall - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we shall begin the catecheses on mercy according to the biblical perspective, in order to learn mercy by listening to what God himself teaches us through his Word. We shall start with the Old Testament, which prepares us and leads us to the full revelation of Jesus Christ, in whom the mercy of the Father is fully revealed.

In Sacred Scripture, the Lord is presented as a “merciful God”. This is his name, through which he unveils, so to speak, his face and his heart to us. As the Book of Exodus recounts, on revealing himself to Moses he defined himself in this way: “the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (34:6). We also find this formula in other texts, with certain variations, but the emphasis is always placed on mercy and on the love of God who never tires of forgiving (cf. Gen 4:2; Joel 2:13; Ps 86 [85]: 15, 103 [102]: 8, 145[144]:8; Neh 9:17). Together let us consider, one by one, these words of Sacred Scripture which speak to us about God.

The Lord is “merciful”: this word evokes a tender approach like that of a mother toward her child. Indeed, the Hebrew term used in the Bible evokes the viscera or even the maternal womb. Therefore, the image it suggests is that of a God who is moved and who softens for us like a mother when she takes her child in her arms, wanting only to love, protect, help, ready to give everything, even herself. This is the image that this term evokes. A love, therefore, which can be defined in the best sense as “visceral”.

Then it is written that the Lord is “gracious”, in the sense of having grace, he has compassion and, in his greatness, he bends down to those who are weak and poor, ever ready to welcome, to understand, to forgive. He is like the father in the parable recounted in the Gospel of Luke (cf. Lk 15:11-32): a father who does not withdraw in resentment at the younger son for having forsaken him, but on the contrary, he continues to await him — he begot him — and then he runs to meet him and embraces him. He does not even let him explain — as though he had covered his mouth — so great is his love and joy at having found him again. Then the father also goes to call the older son who is offended and does not want to join in the celebration, the son who always stayed home and who lived more as a servant than as a son. To him too, the father bends down, invites him to enter, tries to open his heart to love, so that no one is excluded from the celebration of mercy. Mercy is a celebration!

It is also said of this merciful God that he is “slow to anger”, literally, “of great breadth”, that is, having a broad capacity of forbearance and patience. God knows how to wait, his time is not the impatient one of man; he is like the wise farmer who knows how to wait, allowing time for the good seed to grow, in spite of the weeds (cf. Mt 13:24-30).

Lastly, the Lord proclaims himself “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. How beautiful this definition of God is! It is all-encompassing. For God is great and powerful, and this greatness and power are used to love us, who are so small, so incompetent. The word “love”, used here, indicates affection, grace, goodness. It is not soap opera love.... It is love which takes the first step, which does not depend on human merit but on immense gratuitousness. It is divine solicitude that nothing can impede, not even sin, because it is able to go beyond sin, to overcome evil and forgive it.

Abounding in “faithfulness”: this is the final word of God’s revelation to Moses. God’s faithfulness never fails, because the Lord is the guardian who, as the Psalm says, never slumbers but keeps constant vigil over us in order to lead us to life: “May he not suffer your foot to slip; may he slumber not who guards you: Indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps, the guardian of Israel.... The Lord will guard you from all evil; he will guard your life. The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever” (Ps 121[120]:3-4, 7-8).

This merciful God is faithful in his mercy and St Paul says something beautiful: if you are not faithful to him, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. Faithfulness in mercy is the very being of God. For this reason God is totally and always trustworthy. A solid and steadfast presence. This is the assurance of our faith. Thus, in this Jubilee of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves to him totally, and experience the joy of being loved by this “God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness”."


"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française.
En ce jour de la fête liturgique de saint Hilaire, Évêque de Poitiers, et de saint Rémi, Évêque de Reims, je porte particulièrement dans ma prière la France, ses habitants et ses gouvernants. Je forme le vœu que chacun ait la grâce d’accueillir la miséricorde de Dieu et de la porter à ses frères. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from Ireland, Finland and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the the Church’s celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for all, I invoke upon you and your families an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord. God bless you all!

Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an alle Pilger deutscher Sprache. Das Heilige Jahr der Barmherzigkeit lädt uns ein, uns ganz der Güte des Herrn anzuvertrauen. Der gute Gott wird nie müde, uns zu vergeben. Werden auch wir nie müde, uns dem barmherzigen Vater zuzuwenden, insbesondere im Sakrament der Beichte. Gott segne euch alle.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España y Latinoamérica —veo que hay una tropa argentino-uruguaya por ahí—. Llenos de confianza en el Señor, acojámonos a Él, para experimentar la alegría de ser amados por un Dios misericordioso, clemente y compasivo.

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, saúdo-vos cordialmente a todos, com menção especial para o grupo do Brasil. Não nos cansemos de vigiar sobre os nossos pensamentos e atitudes para saborear desde já o calor e o esplendor do rosto de Deus misericordioso, que havemos de contemplar em toda a sua beleza na vida eterna. Desça, generosa, a sua Bênção sobre vós e vossas famílias!

أتوجه بتحية قلبية للحجاج الناطقين باللغة العربية، وخاصة القادمين من الأردن ومن الأراضي ‏المقدسة ومن الشرق الأوسط. إن الرحمة هي اسم الله، وهي طريقته في التعبير عن ذاته وعن محبته ‏للبشر. وهو يدعونا لأن نكون رحماء بعضنا لبعض حتى نكون بالحقيقة أبنائه. ليبارك الرب جميعكم ‏ويغمركم برحمته، ويحرسكم من الشرير!‏

Serdecznie pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów. Moi drodzy, Bóg miłosierny jest całkowicie i zawsze godny zaufania. Taka jest pewność naszej wiary. Podczas tego Jubileuszu Miłosierdzia powierzmy Mu się, a doświadczymy radości bycia kochanymi przez Boga, który jest „miłosierny i litościwy, cierpliwy, bogaty w łaskę i wierność”. Niech Jego błogosławieństwo stale wam towarzyszy!


Prima di concludere questo nostro incontro, in cui abbiamo riflettuto insieme sulla Misericordia di Dio, vi invito a pregare per le vittime dell’attentato avvenuto ieri a Istanbul. Che il Signore, il Misericordioso, dia pace eterna ai defunti, conforto ai familiari, fermezza solidale all’intera società, e converta i cuori dei violenti.

* * *

A tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa prima Udienza Generale del 2016 porgo un cordiale augurio di speranza e di pace per il nuovo anno.

Saluto in particolare i sacerdoti della Diocesi di Savona-Noli, con il Vescovo Mons. Vittorio Lupi; i fedeli di Teggiano e quelli di Sala Consilina e le famiglie dell’Istituto Nazionale Tumori di Milano. A tutti formulo l’auspicio che il passaggio dalla Porta Santa incoraggi a fare esperienza delle opere di misericordia corporali e spirituali.

Un pensiero speciale rivolgo ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli. In questo Anno Santo vi invito ad accogliere e condividere la tenerezza di Dio Padre. Cari giovani, siate portatori dell’amore di Cristo tra i vostri coetanei; cari ammalati, trovate nella carezza di Dio il sostegno nel dolore; e voi, cari sposi novelli, siate testimoni della bellezza del Sacramento del Matrimonio attraverso il vostro amore fedele.