In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia or The Joy of Love, Pope Francis has written a document that makes mercy the core of the Church’s pastoral direction for generations to come. In this important document, the Holy Father states that “the Church is commissioned to proclaim the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the mind and heart of every person.” (AL 309)
If the content of The Joy of Love was surprising to you, you just haven’t been listening. From the earliest days of his pontificate, the Holy Father has been advocating the return to the more merciful and compassionate pastoral approach set forth in the new document.
In an interview in America magazine in September 2013, the Pope speaks of the Church’s first obligation to continue Jesus’ message of healing and forgiveness, stating that “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a ﬁeld hospital after battle.”
Later, in that same interview, he speaks of the primary obligation to proclaim the Gospel in both Word and action. “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the ﬁrst proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
God’s limitless mercy has become the watchword of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the all-encompassing concept of his pontificate. In The Joy of Love he explains, “We cannot forget that mercy is not only the work of the Father; it becomes a criterion for knowing who his true children are. In a word, we are called to show mercy because mercy was first shown to us.” (AL 310) This is not sheer romanticism or a lukewarm response to God’s love, which always seeks the best for us, for “mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.” (AL 310)
In three years Pope Francis has changed the world’s image of the Church through the power of his personal witness of mercy, humility and service. His pontificate has been a modern parable that challenges us, who are the Church, to do likewise. Amoris Laetitia is plan of action.
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish