(16) The impetus for Pope Francis’ declaration of this year as a Year of Mercy comes from Jesus himself, when he inaugurated his ministry saying that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, anointing him to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isa 61:2)–the word ‘favor’ being the same as the word ‘mercy.’
This is more than God “doing a favor” for us, even though that image is a positive one. No, the word ‘favor’ describes the nature of God more deeply–meaning that it is the disposition of God toward us. We say it in the liturgy for Holy Communion, “whose property is always to have mercy.” Mercy is not God’s obligation, it is God’s desire.
Jesus began his ministry incarnating the disposition of mercy and announcing that it would be the hallmark of his ministry. From Christ’s example, Francis takes his cue for the anointing of his ministry as Pope, and finds the basis for his announcement that the whole Church must be merciful.
Such mercy Jesus said, extends to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. Such mercy, says Pope Francis, must similarly be given to anyone who is viewed as an “other” and relegated to the margins. Just as mercy inaugurated Jesus’ ministry, it inaugurates ours too.
[Note: the numbers at the beginning of each meditation correspond to the section of the Pope’s document on which it is based]