How come theologians have neglected mercy for so long? Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows how central mercy is to the Gospel message: it’s enough to read the parables of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. But sometimes the greatest minds have an amazing talent for missing the obvious: in my years of studying theology at Milltown Institute, the University of Münster, Weston School of Theology, and Harvard Divinity School, not one professor ever taught a course on mercy. What planet were they on?
We needed the down-to-earth wisdom of Pope Francis to remind us of something so glaringly self-evident we should have known it long ago – when it comes to God, mercy is where it’s at. God is Misericordia: God has taken our miseria (misery) and our pain into his cordia (heart).
Pope Francis did not learn about mercy from theologians, but from a young woman who also happens to be a Doctor of the Church. As he has said, “Don’t be afraid to depend solely on the tenderness of God as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux did.”
Perhaps someday, with the inspiration of Francis, Thérèse and other generous souls like them, we will manage to formulate a new kind of theology that has Divine Mercy at its centre. That’s the kind of theology we desperately need, because, as Jorge Mario Bergoglio said shortly before becoming Pope, “Mercy is the name of our God, and without mercy we’re lost.”
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