Last evening I gave a talk at St. Thomas Apostle in Wisdom in the Year of Mercy. The talk was part of a four-session series that was part of the parish’s celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Each of the four sessions of the series considered mercy with respect to one of the four pillars of the parish’s mission statement: welcome, worship, wisdom and witness.
What is the relationship between mercy and wisdom? I spent most of my discussion addressing that question from the standpoint of the way Pope Francis talks about wisdom, because I think his is way of understanding wisdom that I think is particularly useful when we talk about wisdom and mercy.
In his first catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit during a general audience in April of 2014, Pope Francis described what he meant by the wisdom that is the gift of the Holy Spirit. He said that wisdom
is not simply human wisdom, which is the fruit of knowledge and experience. In the Bible we are told that Solomon, at the time of his coronation as King of Israel, had asked for the gift of wisdom. And wisdom is precisely this: it is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: it is to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything through God’s eyes. This is wisdom.
To see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything through God’s eyes. Thus, the Pope explained, being wise does not mean having an answer for everything. It doesn’t mean knowing everything. Rather, one possessing wisdom “knows how God acts, he knows when something is of God and when it is not of God.”
In my talk I addressed what it means to see with the eyes of God, why doing so is so challenging for us and how we might grow in that wisdom.
With respect to the first of those questions: What does that suggest it means to see as God sees, especially when the emphasis is mercy? I think it means a couple of things:
First, to see the other as God’s beloved. God says to each and all of us: “You are precious in my eyes and glorious and I love you” (Isaiah). “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah). Or, to use the words Catherine of Siena heard God speak to her: “It was with providence that I created you and when I contemplated my creature in myself I fell in love with the beauty of my creation.”
So to see others as God sees them is to recognize each person as one who is beloved by God. My own view is that that makes a difference: If Bill and I are friends and I meet someone who I know Bill loves or is very fond of, that immediately makes a difference in how I view the person. They are not just a nameless “other.” They are Bill’s beloved. And my relationship with Bill spills over into my relationship with the other. (There is a reason we say “any friend of Bill’s is a friend of mine.”)
Second, to see as God sees means to want what is best for the other. That is to say that our love is other-directed. It is aimed toward what the other person needs. We speak of agapic love – that is, an unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. A love that doesn’t seek reward, but the well-being of another.
There is no question this is challenging, and we had a good discussion last night of what are some of those challenges. But that is our aspiration.