Jesus said to St Faustina, ” I am the king of mercy…I am love and mercy itself.” Jesus tells Faustina that the greatest attribute of God is mercy. This might seem simple enough, but it was one of the reasons that the diary of Saint Faustina was placed on the index of forbidden book by the church. What was the problem? Mercy was seen just as one of the attributes of God. In this way the revelations given to Saint Faustina have radically altered and purified our view of God.
Cardinal Walter Kasper in his new book, ‘Mercy’ writes, “Mercy expresses God’s essence, which graciously attends to and devotes itself to the world and to humanity in ever new ways in history. In short, mercy expresses God’s own goodness of love. It is God’s caritas operativa et effectiva. Therefore we must describe mercy as the fundamental attribute of God. Mercy, of which we just spoken, stands in an indissoluble inner connection with God’s other attributes, especially holiness, justice, fidelity, and truth. It is surrounded by a crown of other divine attributes, which are organized into a whole around mercy and which express aspects of God’s mercy. Scheeben mentions: benevolence, magnanimity, favor, graciousness, friendliness to human beings, condescension, generosity, friendliness to human beings, generosity, clemency, leniency, mildness, gentleness, patience and forbearance. This finding suggest that we should treat mercy not as an appendix to the exposition of God’s attributes, but rather as the organizing center of God’s attributes,with the other attributes grouped around it.”(88-89)
Here is an image I got in prayer. Mercy is the sun and all the other attributes of God are the planets that revolve around the sun. God does not just have mercy. God is mercy. God’s essence is mercy.
Cardinal Kasper writes, “It was great and holy women who overcame a doctrine of God that was one-sidedly oriented to metaphysics and who rediscovered that full power of the biblical experience of God. St Therese of Lisieux, who never wrote a theological treatise but is still venerated as a doctor of the church, could say” ‘To me He has granted His infinite mercy, and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfection! All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with love.’ Sister Faustina has made mercy a fundamental feature of God and has thereby been able, through Pope John Paul II, to influence the theological thinking of the twenty-first century….Saint Thomas convincingly shows that mercy is already active in creation. According to him, mercy is the presupposition of justice. For justice always presupposes someone to whom one owes justice. The existence of the creature, however is not owed, but arises solely from the goodness of God. God’s justice does not establish his mercy; rather mercy is the primordial root (prima radix) and the prior reality, to which everything else is refereed. Everything ultimately depends on the goodness of God.” (90)
You might ask what difference does all this make? I would argue that it makes a dramatic difference. So often our view of God is mirrored by an over emphasis on His justice. However, God’s justice is not equal to His mercy. God’s Justice, as well as all the other attributes of God, serve His mercy. God’s essence, which is His mercy, wants to forgive and heal aching humanity. Jesus said to Fautina, “The greater the sinner the greater the right they have to my mercy.”
This understanding of God’s mercy also has effects on how we view the Church. Pope Francis has called for the Church to be a field hospital, and to reflect the mercy of God, All people Pope Francis says ought to experience God’s mercy in the Church. The Church is foremost meant to be the place of mercy.