Opinion & Features

Catholic Dilemmas

A lot of what is said about mercy for the Jubilee seems to be simply about God’s love in general. Is there something particular about mercy that we should be focusing on?

In the Old Testament, the word hesed is usually translated as “mercy”. It means God’s profound goodness and faithfulness to us, but is always used in connection with the covenant. This faithful or steadfast love of God remains even when the covenant is broken, and that is what we usually mean by mercy: that sorrow of heart for the misery of another that leads a person to go beyond the demands of justice and gratuitously bestow compassion and forgiveness.

When we ask for God’s mercy, we are not simply asking Him to continue to be kind and loving towards us; we are asking for an additional favour, the forgiveness of our sins.

In order to ask for mercy we must therefore admit honestly that we are in need of this generous, super-abundant love which is completely undeserved on our part. We make this admission most completely in the Sacrament of Penance in which we humbly name our sins, express sorrow for them, resolve not to commit them again and undertake to offer reparation. God’s mercy calls for a fitting response on our part which is to be merciful ourselves. Pope Francis has encouraged us in this by offering a plenary indulgence during the Jubilee Year for carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.