What is your image of God? Do you see him as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6)? This is how God described himself to Moses. This is who He is, but sometimes our distorted images of him paint a very different reality. Many in the world today see Him rather as an aloof tyrant, or more like an angry, vengeful and exacting judge.
How can we and the rest of the world really know God’s heart? Do we trust our distorted perceptions more than God’s self-revelation? Pope Francis assures us that Jesus Christ fully reveals the face and heart of the Father.
Jesus brings to fulfillment the tender heart of God described by the psalmists. By forgiving our sins, healing our diseases, and rescuing us from the pits, He incarnates the Father’s mercy (Ps. 103: 3-4; Mt. 9). Actively He demonstrates God’s love, as He secures justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, gives liberty to the prisoner, restores sight to the blind; and lifts up the downtrodden (Ps. 146:7-9; Luke 4; John 5-6). Jesus heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds (Ps. 147:3; Luke 4).
Pope Francis assures us that Jesus fully reveals the Father’s heart of mercy. “Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.” “Everything in him speaks of mercy.” We see this demonstrated throughout the gospels.
Even today, Jesus never stops revealing the Father’s heart. He unceasingly displays God’s merciful love through the Church and commands each of us who bear His name to participate in His mission: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6: 36). As Christ’s body, we are called to reveal the the heart of the Father to everyone we meet, through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Mercy, according to Pope Francis, “is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” Moreover it is “the criterion by which we know who are true children of the Father.” Mercy shows the Church to be authentic and alive. It is “the beating heart of the gospel.” It is only here, says Pope Francis, that the Church will become a true witness to the world. “The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” “Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”
What a responsibility we bear! The world is waiting for us to reveal the merciful heart of God. Are we up to the challenge? Have we encountered His mercy in our own lives? Are we willing to allow His powerful love to flow through us? Then let us follow our Holy Father’s exhortation and actively participate in Jesus’ mission: “Mission is always the fruit of a life that has been found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing”.
 All the quotations except one are from Pope Francis decree on the Mercy of God, which he wrote in preparation for the upcoming Great Jubilee of Mercy. The final quotation is from a daily homily from Pope Francis, September, 2015.