Beyond the Mystery Is Mercy

When the great moment arrived and the voice of God became audible at Sinai, what mysteries did it disclose? I apocalyptic visions one is shown “the treasuries of the stars,” mountains of gold, seas of glass, cities of jasper. Did Israel learn anything at Sinai about the enigmas of the universe? About the conditions of the departed souls? About demons, angels, heaven? The voice they perceive said: Remember the seventh day to keep it holy…. Honor thy father and thy mother….

When in response to Moses’ request, the Lord appeared to tell him what He is, did He say: I am the all-wise, the perfect, and of infinite beauty? He did say: I am full of love and compassion. Where in the history of religion prior to the age of Moses, was the Supreme Being celebrated for His being sensitive to the suffering of men? Have not philosophers agreed, as Nietzsche remarked, in the deprecation of pity?

God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joshua Heschel

When I was younger I often heard Christians emphasize that the message of the New Testament as one of love and mercy while by contrast mischaracterizing the God of the Old Testament as a jealous and vengeful God. Yet here Heschel points out that the face God presents to Moses is one of love and compassion. The God of the Old Testament is merciful. He is the faithful Bridegroom, seeking his Bride, who goes astray again and again. And yet, no matter how faithless she is, he never tires of seeking her.

Mercy. This is a theme that the Church has stressed over and over again, in recent years more so than everPope Saint John Paul 2 inaugurated the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope Francis has stressed the nature of God as mercy, declaring last year the Year of Mercy. And Pope Benedict declared: “Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love.”

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