Misericordiae Vultus: A Path to Encounter and Conversion for Prodigal Sons and Older Brothers Alike

Authored by Martha Fernández-Sardina in Issue #2.1 of The Catechetical Review

Every new year brings new hopes, dreams, promises, and possibilities, as does the Year of Mercy! The Holy Father asks us to respond wholeheartedly to the call for a widespread and generous outpouring of mercy, despite the fact that this emphasis on mercy might appear to minimize the demands of justice and the law. Some may be surprised at this, as were the pharisees and scribes at the time of Jesus. At the same time, though, millions of Catholics and non-Catholics are delighted as they observe Pope Francis and his announcement of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

How Does This Document About Mercy Affect Us?

During this Year of Mercy—Annus Misericordiae—we will contemplate and reflect the Face of Mercy, Christ’s Face, or the Misericordiae Vultus. We plunge into this contemplation in order to understand and become that which we contemplate, so all might find a path to conversion, a path home to our Father. The Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy outlines Pope Francis’ pastoral focus for the New Evangelization. In it, he stresses mercy as the core of a life-altering Gospel that can lead to deep metanoia, thus transforming our hearts into the meek and humble heart of Jesus, full of mercy and compassion. The pope believes, prophetically perhaps, that contemplating the face of mercy and allowing ourselves to be inwardly transformed by it will enable us to “be merciful like the Father” (cf. Lk 6:36), as the motto for the Jubilee Year pronounces. Thus transformed, we will become instruments of conversion and transformation among “insiders” and “outsiders” alike, and thereby change the world. The bull, Misericordiae Vultus, states:

"Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups – the just and sinners – Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation."[i]

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

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