142 – “There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes”

When reading the Holy Scriptures, people with limited vision could conclude that, in the Old Testament, God was strictly justice: He seems to be an almighty God who made Sinai quake (Ex 19:18), who opened the earth to swallow up the rebels (Num 16: 1–35), a God of vengeance (Ps 94:1) who struck Uzzah dead for having touched the Ark of the Covenant to steady it (2Sam 6: 1–9).

On the other hand, when we consider the New Testament, it seems to highlight only the God of mercy, goodness and patience… Such readers find room only for the pleasant pages of the Gospel where Jesus cures lepers, the blind and the paralytics, and pardons sinners. Quite naturally, they are always mindful of Jesus’ most extraordinary parable: that of the prodigal son.

It is perfectly understandable that the contemplation of God’s mercy be, in fact, the most agreeable. In the depths of our miseries, how many times don’t we ourselves feel like the prodigal son who abandoned his Father in pursuit of worldly pleasures? How often haven’t we been moved in recalling our own returned to the Father, in confessing our sins and feeling the warm embrace of his pardon after having strayed from the straight and narrow path? But the fact that these memories please us does not justify a strictly one-dimensional vision of God: vengeful in the Old Testament and merciful in the New.

After all, the Old Testament also contains passages demonstrating goodness, mercy and pardon. And the New Testament likewise conveys scenes of justice and even righteous anger. We must neither overlook Jesus’ dialogues with the Pharisees, nor his expulsion of the money changers from the Temple! We cannot divide or fragment God, reducing him to our own limited size. He is both justice and mercy, and these attributes may not be disassociated in him.

According to the Angelic Doctor, God’s justice is true in that it gives each being that which corresponds to its dignity, and keeps the nature of each being in its rightful place and with its rightful powers (Summa Theologica, I, q.21, a.1). Moreover, ‘the work of divine justice always presupposes the work of mercy; and is founded thereupon. […] So in every work of God, viewed at its primary source, there appears mercy’ (Summa Theological I, q. 21, a.4). Even ‘in the damnation of the reprobate mercy is seen, which, though it does not totally remit, yet somewhat alleviates, in punishing short of what is deserved’ (Summa Theologica I, q.21, a.4, ad 1). And ‘justice and mercy appear in the punishment of the just in this world, since by afflictions lesser faults are cleansed in them, and they are the more raised up from earthly affections to God’ (Summa Theologica I, q. 21, a.4, ad 3).

And so, what is mercy? Etymologically speaking, ‘Mercy comes from the Latin [misericors], formed from miser (miserable, unfortunate) and cor, cordis (heart). This word refers to the capacity of feeling the misfortune of others.’ In Saint Augustine’s beautiful terms: ‘What is compassion but a fellow-feeling for another’s misery, which prompts us to help him if we can? And this emotion is obedient to reason, when compassion is shown without violating right, as when the poor are relieved, or the penitent forgiven’ (City of God, IX, 5).

God is mercy, He has compassion for the true miserable and unfortunates – the sinners; He takes no pleasure in the death of a wicked man, but rather in his conversion, that he may live (Ezek 33:11). Therefore, for an individual to be the object of God’s mercy, repentance is of the essence, along with the desire to never offend him again, which implies a true change of life.

Mercy is infinite in God, as everything in him is infinite. But those sinners who fail to acknowledge this, and do not want to follow the truths that He left us, turning their backs on him by their sinful lives, create their own obstacles to God’s mercy. In this way they heap the coals of God’s justice upon themselves. For this life or in the next…


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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter various parts of our study

I – God is mercy, but He is also justice. In God, these two attributes do not contradict each other
II – The Alliance of mercy with the chosen people is the inheritance of the Catholic Church. God awaits the conversion of the Jewish people
III – True love for our neighbor does not exclude hatred for sin and impiety
IV – Who is the “merciful and kind” Allah?
V – What is the principal objective of the Jubilee Year? Religious syncretism or sincere conversion?

I – God is mercy, but He is also justice. In God, these two attributes do not contradict each other

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Let us not indulge ourselves in a season of mercy, saying, God spares forever…
In God, neither does justice exclude mercy, nor does mercy hinder justice
We, in our perversity, would like God to be so merciful, that He would be unjust

Pius IX

In heaven we shall understand how close the bond between divine mercy and justice is

Saint Thomas Aquinas

God’s mercy does not reach those who render themselves unworthy of it

Saint Gregory the Great

The stubborn and impenitent sinner stores up the wrath of God for himself
God chastises with greater severity those whom he has tolerated longer

John Paul II

God is a just judge, who rewards good and punishes evil

Catechism of Trent

Those who knowingly grieve the Holy Spirit recover the friendship of God in a different manner than those who sinned through ignorance

Benedict XVI

Love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner
Even when God’s plans pass through punishment, they aim at an outcome of mercy

John Paul II

God’s punishment makes deaf sinners turn back to the right path

John Paul I

The truths of faith are of two kinds; some pleasant, others unpalatable to our spirit

Pius XII

It is always an active love that guides the chastisements of God

Pius XI

The power to judge, which the Father granted the Son, also includes the power to confer rewards and punishments upon men

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

God is just, and being just He must punish the ungrateful

II – The Alliance of mercy with the chosen people is the inheritance of the Catholic Church. What God awaits the Jewish people: conversion

Sacred Scripture

Saint Peter to the Israelites: “Repent and be converted”
The Old Covenant with the chosen people was substituted by the New Alliance
Christ declares the first regime abolished and establishes the second
The New Alliance has much more glory than the former, and endures forever

Pius XII

By the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law

Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII)

All who observe requirements of the Old Law are not fit to participate in eternal salvation

Benedict XIV

The ceremonies of the Mosaic Law can no longer be observed without sin

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Ever since Christ’s Passion it is a mortal sin to observe the ceremonies of the old rites
The judicial precepts of the Old Law were annulled by the coming of Christ

Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII)

Outside of the Church, not only pagans, but also Jews cannot become participants in eternal life

Saint Augustine of Hippo

We should invite the Jews to conversion; resisting it they continue sinners

Saint John Chrysostom

The Jews will be saved neither by circumcision nor by sacrifices, but only by baptism
They are beloved because of their ancestors, but whose virtue has no influence on them if they do not believe

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Prayer for the Jews is not useless…that they be converted!

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Because the Old Testament was imperfect, a New Testament is promised to them

Saint Augustine of Hippo

In failing to recognize in Jesus Christ, the Jews are blind and sick

III – True love for our neighbor does not exclude hatred for sin and impiety

Saint Thomas Aquinas

We must love our neighbor with justice and holiness; we must not love him above God, by doing so God is lost
To love one’s neighbor is to hate his sin and wish him to be good
It is our duty to hate, in the sinner, his being a sinner; and to love in him, his being a man capable of bliss
To overlook wrongs inflicted on God by sinners is most wicked

Saint Augustine of Hippo

No sinner is to be loved as a sinner

IV – Who is the “merciful and kind” Allah?

Benedict XVI

According to Islam, nothing would oblige Allah to reveal the truth

Saint John Damascene

Allah permitted polygamy and concubinage
Allah recommends adultery


Allah hates all of those who do not practice Islam
‘There is life for you in retaliation’
Keep your duty to Allah to be successful
‘Kill them and drive them out’
‘Fighting is enjoined on you’
‘Whom Allah cursed will not find a helper for him’
‘Whomsoever Allah leaves in error thou canst not find a way for him’
‘Allah is Severe in requiting’
‘Slay! Allah is merciful…’
Allah cannot be questioned as to what he does

IV – What is the principal objective of the Jubilee Year? Religious syncretism or sincere conversion?

Pius XI

The Holy Year attracts those who have the aim of expiating their sins

John Paul II

The gift of indulgences does not reach us without our acceptance and response
Indulgences, far from being a sort of discount on the duty of conversion, are an aid to its prompt and radical fulfillment
To live the Holy Year well we must be reconciled with God
The Jubilee Year is a time of deep conversion

Committee of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000

The purpose of the Jubilee is to encourage holiness of life

Paul VI

“Renewal” and “reconciliation” remain the key words for the Holy Year - Reconciliation with God through a breaking with sin

John Paul II

The Holy Year is a time when we are called to conversion
Repentance is necessary to participate in the grace of Redemption
The Holy Year is a time of purification

Apostolic Penitentiary

The whole Jubilee journey has as its starting point and its conclusion the celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and of the Eucharist

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