The Jubilee Year dedicated to mercy has just ended. It’s an important moment to reflect on what we have experienced and to reflect on the extent to which the call for the abounding love of mercy penetrates our hearts.
Although Francis’ first Jubilee has come to an end, we are faced with the mounting challenge the Pope addressed to us in Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si to transform our lives into a veritable instrument of the love of God, concretized in society through the promotion of inclusive actions capable of putting the incompressible dignity of the human person, in all spheres of human action, at the centre of human life. In fact, “Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.” (Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace, 18)
The Pope reiterates his appeal to the necessary intertwining and interdependence of the spiritual and material realms, of prayer and action, based on the fact that “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy continue in our own day to be proof of mercy’s immense positive influence as a social value.” (Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace, 18) This is precisely the direction that the very mercy which we had the opportunity to contemplate and see in action during the Jubilee year must follow to become a concrete, relentless commitment. This means “to live in charity” (Apostolic Letter, 8) turning the love that God bestows upon us into the gauge of our relations with others, and of our decisions.
It’s a powerful appeal to the assumption of individual responsibility, abounding with hope and faith in man’s ability to break through “walls of selfishness that surround us, in order to make us in turn instruments of mercy.” (Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace, 3). The reference to charity, the main path of the social doctrine of the Church, representing the transmission belt connecting God’s mercy to our freedom of choice, focuses our attention on the need to carry out small or great acts in our everyday life aimed at bringing about social, economic and political order based on human dignity and on the freedom of every human person in a climate of peace, justice and solidarity. In fact, only this will lead to the integral development of the human person
Charity involves the display of human spirit of initiative, enriched with generous self-giving enshrined in the anthropological vision contained in Church social doctrine, of which it is a leading thread. Within the economic-institutional context, which often appears uninterested in human dignity, this implies the exercise of human virtue coupled by efforts aimed at creating the preliminary conditions for a renewed dynamism of civil society. The latter, conversely, appears to be increasingly absent within contemporary democracies where
the criteria of inclusion has been replaced by extractive dynamics which not only destroy the wealth (both material and spiritual) of a people, but, worse still, exclude the human person from long-lasting development processes, thereby causing under-development and poverty (spiritual and material alike).
To speak of the social dimension of mercy doesn’t mean delegating the responsibility of working for the common good to others. Unlike simplistic paternalistic approaches that remove the responsibility of the fate of the poor from civil society, thereby proving to be unable to meet the needs of the poor or improving their living conditions,
The approach underlying the social doctrine of the Church is aimed at promoting social inclusion, breaking the chains of poverty.
Thus it is not the primary responsibility of political leaders to create a social order that is worthy of man. In fact, the former should be asked to ensure the establishment of an inclusive institutional environment where everyone is given the possibility to promote, in their daily activities and life, a new humanism based on a relational vision of the economy and society.
Hence mercy challenges us all, in our individual and relational spheres alike. It invites us, as Pope Francis says, “to promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of encounter with others” (Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace, 20) thereby helping to give real meaning to our lives. Therefore, each of us with our own talents, our own weaknesses and, even with our miseries, are called to commit ourselves for the common good letting ourselves be inspired by the faith and generously putting our very existence at the disposal of Others.