From Creation, God has revealed his nature as love itself, in Sacred Scripture and most perfectly in the life, Passion, death and Resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Saints have also borne witness to God’s unfathomable love, e.g., in the writings of Augustine, Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, Margaret Mary Alacoque and Thérèse of Lisieux.
In his second encyclical, Rich in Mercy, Pope St. John Paul II offers an extended meditation on the mystery of God’s mercy, which he calls “the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God” (Dives in misericordia, 13). He returned to this theme throughout his pontificate:
As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
Lord, who reveals the Father’s love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. —St. Pope John Paul II, Regina caeli message prepared for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2005
What is mercy if not the boundless love of God, who confronted with human sin, restrains the sentiment of severe justice and, allowing Himself to be moved by the wretchedness of His creatures, spurs Himself to the total gift of self, in the Son’s cross …?
Who can say that he is free from sin and does not need God’s mercy? As people of this restless time of ours, wavering between the emptiness of self-exaltation and the humiliation of despair, we have a greater need than ever for a regenerating experience of mercy. —St. Pope John Paul II, Regina caeli message, April 10, 1994
Pope Benedict XVI called St. John Paul II “a great apostle of Divine Mercy” and echoed his predecessor’s thoughts:
In our time, humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy. Beloved John Paul II, a great apostle of Divine Mercy, prophetically intuited this urgent pastoral need. He dedicated his second Encyclical to it and throughout his pontificate made himself a missionary of God’s love to all peoples. —Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus message, Sept. 16, 2007
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. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man. —Pope Benedict XVI, Regina caeli address, March 30, 2008