I have been reading ‘The Name Of God Is Mercy’, the book containing the interview with Pope Francis. It makes for fascinating reading and reveals much about this present Pope.
Francis begins by speaking about why he wanted to proclaim the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. He says the theme of mercy has been central to his Priesthood, as it is the most important message of Christ. He says –
“I believe that this is a time of mercy. The Church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded.. I am ever more convinced of it, our era is (an era) of mercy”.
He goes on to speak about the works of his predecessors, referencing Pope John XXIII, Paul VI and – especially – Pope John Paul II, linking him in a special way to the Divine Mercy devotion, and citing his document, ‘Dives In Misericordiae’ (Rich In Mercy).
In speaking about what mercy means to him personally, Francis is very direct – “Mercy is God’s identity card.. this really is the Lord’s identity”. He goes on to speak of Priests he has known over the years who have been exemplars of mercy, and then speaks about why the world is so in need of mercy; “humanity is wounded”. He speaks of sin as a wound inflicted on all humanity and notes that some people have lost their sense of sin, while others have lost their sense of hope, of redemption.
The Holy Father then begins to speak about Confession, of how “Mother Church (is) called to dispense the mercy of Christ.. it is an encounter with mercy”. He speaks of how, in his own experience as a confessor, he has always sought that little crack into which the grace of God can pour itself, despite the near lock-down souls sometimes experience. That tiny little opening in the armour of the soul is enough, he says, and grace will do the rest. He gives advice to Priest confessors, as well as to penitents, explaining how the soul can make a good Confession, and telling what disposition allows the soul to see and receive mercy from God. He also says that the very awareness that we are sinners is, in itself, a grace from God.
An interesting point made by Pope Francis in the book, is that “the place where my encounter with the mercy of Jesus takes place is my sin”. He says we express this idea in the Exultet of Easter night, where we sing of ‘o happy fault’ which allowed the Redemption to take place.
Expanding this topic, the Pope then speaks about why we are sinners – “because of original sin” – and how our sinfulness wounds all humanity. Responding to a question about whether there can be ‘too much mercy’, the Pope notes that the mercy of God is superabundant; if the Son of God can lay down His life for sinners, then it is unlikely that we can be ‘too merciful’. He reminds us that “the Church does not exist to condemn people but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy”.
The book really is a fascinating read and it reveals a great deal about how Pope Francis thinks. It also reveals his intellect and broad sources of reference – clearly, he is a very well-read man, as well as a very experienced Priest and human being.