Below is a reflection of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, entitled ‘Faith and Trust in the Goodness of God: The Mercy of Christian Hope.’ Published on November 10th, it is from Cardinal Wuerl’s blog:
Mercy, said Pope Francis in proclaiming this Jubilee Year, is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever,” it is “the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2, 10). Noting how many uncertain and painful situations there are today, he wanted this to be a time of special grace both for people to “experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope,” and for us to compassionately care for others, including helping them to “escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair” (Id., 3, 15).
As love in action, mercy is bound to hope and faith. Our faith that the eternal God is ever-merciful and that he watches over and is actively involved in the drama of history – the story of nations as well as our personal lives – gives us hope. In turn, our hope in the Lord, that is, our trust that he alone is sovereign and that his kingship of love and truth will triumph over all, our faith in Christ’s compassion in which he suffers with us in our miseries and hardships and shepherds us through the valley of the shadow of death, this hope is itself already God’s mercy at work in our lives.
Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, offered a beautiful meditation on the love of God. In his second encyclical, Spe Salvi, a deeply theological and spiritual letter, he challenged people to reflect on what Christian hope means for their lives. Jesus offers us a hope, a certainty of the future as a brighter positive reality that is more than merely informative and academic, it has the power to sustain us and reinvigorate lives. “We have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present” even if it is arduous, affirmed this pastor of souls. Thus, simply on the basis of that hope in a sense we are already saved, we already taste of the fruits of divine mercy (1).
“The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life,” said Pope Benedict, offering the example of African Saint Josephine Bakhita, who had been sold into slavery and beaten daily, but was able to persevere because she came to know she was definitively loved by the Lord. In this knowledge, she had a certain hope that was stronger than her sufferings (Spe Salvi, 2-3).
The living hope that we receive from our faith in Jesus, and cannot keep to ourselves, lightens burdens, provides comfort in afflictions of mind and spirit, transforms fear and gives us strength. Giving someone a reason to hope is perhaps one of the greatest mercies because it leads them away from the deadly pit of despair and alienation, from the nihilistic angst of believing that there is no God and that existence is pointless and without meaning. This hope instead mercifully assures them that someone cares, that they are loved, that life is worth it all, that hardship, injustice, deceit and death will not have the last word, but that we have the sure promise of that heavenly kingdom of light, joy and eternal blessed life in the fullest sense (Id., 10-12; see also Deus Caritas Est, 12; Laudato Si’, 65).
Politics, science, technology, economics and material things have contributed a degree of progress in the human condition, but they will not save humanity. They are fleeting and if detached from God, actually only add to darkness and misery. Rather, Pope Benedict attests, humanity is redeemed by love, namely, by the unconditional merciful love of God in Jesus Christ who encompasses the whole of reality (Spe Salvi, 25-27; Deus Caritas Est, 12, 17).
Moreover, God’s love leads us to have merciful concern and love for others. This is hope in action, said the Holy Father, and in fact such compassion is “the true measure of humanity” and an indispensable expression of our very being as Christians (Spe Salvi, 35-39; Deus Caritas Est, 18, 25; Caritas in Veritate, 34).
We experience life differently when we realize that “our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). Knowing in faith that God sustains us is a spiritual mercy that comforts us in our afflictions. It is a hope that does not disappoint and propels us towards a sure future in the love of God. As Pope Francis has said, “May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope” (Evangelii Gaudium, 278).
This is the first in a three-part series discussing the recent popes on mercy.
On the NET:
To the original post on Cardinal Wuerl’s blog: http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/