Divine Mercy and Justice, and the Natural Law
The mercy and justice revealed in Christ upholds and perfects the natural moral law. Man created in God’s own image and likeness has an order written upon his heart which conforms to his nature and, therefore, directs him to his true happiness. It places him in a right relationship with the world, with his fellow man, and with God His Creator. God has written His law on the human heart.
The natural moral law is articulated in the Ten Commandments, the law which corresponds to the order which God has placed in His creation, the order which is a participation in the truth, goodness and beauty of His own Being. It is a law which every man, created with intelligence and free will in the image and likeness of God, knows in his deepest being. It is a law which man, the only earthly creature created in the image and likeness of God, is able to contemplate, to respect and to observe. It is the law of man’s stewardship of creation, of man’s participation in God’s providential care of the world and, above all, of His sons and daughters destined for communion with Him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is manifested in man’s native capacity to know truth from falsehood, good from evil, and beauty from ugliness.
God articulated the moral law for His chosen people in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, to which Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the fullness of expression in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes. But every man, through his conscience, knows it and is held to observe it. After the first three commandments which pertain to our very relationship with God Himself, our worship of Him alone, and the fourth commandment which governs the family as the origin and secure haven of human life, the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” gives expression to the law within the human soul which makes any attack on innocent and defenseless human life repulsive, and pure and selfless service of all human life attractive.
God who gave us the natural law redeems us through the grace of the Gospel of Christ. God never contradicts Himself. The apostolate of the respect for human life is not, therefore, based on some idea, some man-made agenda or ideology, which may or may not succeed for a longer or shorter period of time. It is founded upon the very reality of our human nature and, above all, upon the reality of Christ Who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” Who alone is our Savior. Through our conscience, we come to recognize what is true, good, and beautiful, which God never fails to communicate to us.
The apostolate of the respect for the integrity of marriage and the family similarly is not based upon some man-made agenda or ideology. It is founded upon the very reality of our human nature, male and female, upon the truth that man and woman are made sexually for each other, and that their sexual union is the expression of the faithful and enduring love of the marriage bond whose highest fruit is the procreation of offspring. Moreover, on the level of grace, it is founded upon our faith in Christ Who elevates the marriage of man and woman to a sacrament, an image of his relationship to the Church.
We, therefore, must not give way to discouragement in the struggle against the advancement of the anti-life and anti-family agenda which would have as its final result the destruction not only of man as an individual, but of society itself. Our engagement in the pro-life and pro-family apostolate is an essential expression of our participation in the merciful love of God.
To help the poor, we must know the faith profoundly and practice it with integrity. Clearly, part of our faith is our belief in God’s mercy. Belief in divine mercy is part of belief in the immeasurable and unceasing love of God, which is represented for us by the Divine Heart and, after the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His Most Sacred Heart.
The covenant of love, which God has formed with us through the death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son, is the source of our care for the poor. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about her sisters, we are not social workers. We are soldiers of Christ who, by the very nature of being incorporated into the Body of Christ, express our holy militancy by bringing the love of God to the poor whom we serve.
The Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, and the Encyclical Letters of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate, express the profound truth of our care of the poor. Yes, we address their poverty, whether it be serious illness, homelessness, material poverty, or any other form of human misery, but, first, we address their deepest need: to know the love of God in Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our charity is always defined by our life in Christ Who inspires and strengthens us to bring the Father’s love to every neighbor and especially the neighbor who is in most need.
It must always be clear, for example, that, in our care for the poor, we respect absolutely the moral law. In today’s highly secularized world, pressure is often exerted upon works of charity to engage in immoral practices which are somehow seen to be a ready answer to one or another form of suffering. For us, mercy can never contradict justice. What is morally evil can never serve the good of the one for whom we care, even if it may seem to offer some immediate help or remedy. It would be unjust if we promoted moral evils in the name of mercy.
Regarding the care of the poor who are not Christian, we do not engage in proselytism, that is, we do not try to force them to convert to the faith. We recognize, though, that non-Christians also need to discover the love of Christ. We must demonstrate that our love for them has a source higher than ourselves. It comes from our communion of love with God the Father in God the Son through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our love for the poor is Christian. Let us therefore uphold the Faith of our Church, received from Christ, and serve the poor with the love of Christ who reveals the eternal mercy of the Father.