Adam and Eve at Dryburgh Abbey ruins, Scotland. MMB.
For Pope John XXIII Christian meant the most beautiful way to own God as mercy. Opening Vatican II he said what our world needs is the medicine of mercy. John Paul II, who knew innocent suffering from personal experience in his homeland under Nazi Germany – living close-by Auschwitz – and through the assassination attempt on his life said, Justice alone is not sufficient.
The tragedy of World War II helped highlight mercy as the source of hope.
The Church must spread the fire of mercy to the whole world. Benedict XVI quoting his predecessor said: Easter’s secret is God’s mercy.
Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?
But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war”. This occurs when we, the summit of creation, stop contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraw into selfishness. When we think only of ourselves, of our own interests and place ourselves in the centre, when we let ourselves be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when we put ourselves in God’s place, and all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict.
This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: we enter into conflict with ourselves, realising we are naked and we hide because we are afraid (cf. Genesis 3: 10), afraid of God’s glance. The man accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear…
It is exactly in this chaos that God asks: where is your brother? (Genesis 4:9). Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, we are our brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a change occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters.