Justice and mercy the inseparable synthesis of God's mysterious relationship with man

Last week the general audience was anticipated on Tuesday, 1 March, because of the Holy Father's departure for Central America on Wednesday. The following is the text of the Holy Father's discourse.

1. Within a few weeks the Holy Year of the Redemption will begin with the opening of the Holy Door. This is a rite in which there seem to come together so many ancient noble aspirations which find perhaps their best expression in those verses of Psalm 117 (118) which were sung by the Jewish pilgrims as they entered the temple of Jerusalem on the occasion of the Feast of Tents:

"Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the Lord.
This gate is the Lord's;
the just shall enter it" (verses 19, 20).

But at the beginning of the Psalm there is an invitatory verse which also serves as the conclusion: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever." (verses 1 and 29).

Justice and mercy are the inseparable synthesis of the mysterious relationship of God with man. Man is invited to trust in the infinite goodness of him who through love created him, through love redeemed him, through love called him to Baptism, to Penance, to the Eucharist, to the Church, to eternal life.

And it is also through love that God makes us hear in these days his call to conversion symbolized by the entrance through the Holy Door.

It is a case of an intimate and profound conversion (metanoia) of him who would live up to the
demands of divine justice with an unshakable confidence in divine mercy.

The Holy Year is that "acceptable time" (cf. 2 Cor 6:2) of entrance and of conversion for those who from near or far look at the Holy Door and with the light of faith discover its significance: the door of justice, the door of mercy, open to the Church which announces Christ and wishes to give him to the world.

Christ the Door of new justice

2. Christ is the true Door: he himself said so (Jn 10:7), just as he also described himself as the Way to the Father (Jn 14:6).

He is a door and a way of justice, because passing through him one enters the order of relationships with God corresponding to the requirements of the holiness of God and of man's very nature: an order of rectitude, of subordination to the divine will, of obedience to divine law; an order which is determined by the Word of God contained in the Sacred Scriptures, but which is already outlined in the intimacy of a free and pure conscience, and is reflected in the ethical convictions of men who are not corrupt, an order which is more clearly illumined and more incisively sculpted in the Christian conscience by the interior magisterium of the Holy Spirit.

Now man's sin has upset the order in its ethical essence, not without repercussions of a psychic, somatic, and even cosmic nature, as St Paul perceived (cf. Rom 8:20), and as human experience bears witness in the daily contact with the evils and sorrows of the world.

Not infrequently today in moments of starkest observation of human miseries which are verified at every level of personal, family and social life, there are raised alarming and alarmed voices which foretell the hour of catastrophe.

In moments of greater sincerity many, perhaps, feel in their hearts the same melancholy reflections of St Paul on the condition of man who has fallen and has become, as it were, unhinged by sin (cf. Rom 1:18 ff.). But with St Paul the believer knows that the order of divine justice has been re-established by Christ who "by the power of God has become our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30).

The believer knows that Christ is the Door of the new justice, because with the sacrifice of his life he has re-established the order of the relationships between mankind and God, overcoming sin and introducing into the world the forces of redemption which are more powerful than those of sin and death.

God's infinite mercy

3. This entrance into the new order of justice would not be possible if there were not extended over the whole economy of salvation the ray of the infinite mercy of God who is essentially Love, Clemency, generous and helping Goodness. Since God has loved us, "he did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all", as St Paul says (Rom 8:32), and he accepted his sacrifice. Christ crucified is the irrefutable sign of God's love for us and the definitive revelation of his mercy.

The Holy Door, then, symbolizes especially the Door of Mercy, which also the man of today can find in Christ. Many men of our time have perhaps the need above all to feel reassured in the hope which is based upon the revelation of divine mercy.

For this reason I wished to devote to this fascinating and fundamental theme of Christianity my second encyclical (1981), which presents God, in the words of St Paul, as "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4). I desire, hope and pray that the Holy Year will be a providential occasion for an evangelization and catechesis of mercy of universal dimension.

Door's significance

4. Entrance through the Door of Justice and of Mercy has also the significance of a new and more decided conversion on our part which is expressed in the practice of penance as a virtue and as a sacrament.

Conversion also is a gift of mercy, a grace of God, a fruit of the redemption wrought by Christ, but it includes and demands an act of our will which freely, under the action of the Holy Spirit, accepts the gift, responds to love, re-enters the order of eternal law and justice, and then surrenders to the appeal of Divine Mercy.

The year 1983 will be truly holy for those who during it allow themselves to be reconciled to God (cf. 2 Cor 5:20), by repenting and doing penance; for those here in Rome or in whatever other place, even in the most out-of-the-way places reached by the message of the Cross, who will gain the indulgence and then make their way to the Altar to profess their faith and invoke the heavenly Father, but also their way to the Confessional, to acknowledge themselves as sinners and humbly to seek God's pardon, thus renewing their conscience in the love of Christ (cf. Heb 9:14).

In them there will be accomplished the work of divine Mercy which will make them partakers of the Justice of Christ from whom comes our every good, our every possibility of hope and salvation.

L'Osservatore Romano March 7, 1983
Reprinted with permission