The Name of God is Mercy is in actuality a book-length interview- intended as a spiritual guidebook for The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, designated so by Pope Francis (November, 2015 – November, 2016). It is but one of several books on the theme of mercy, prayer,and evangelization as the inherent missional arms of the Church. And its context is evangelization – “Evangelization is the mission of a Church that welcomes all and is willing to journey ‘to the edges’ as servant of those dwelling in poverty, both material and spiritual. This is the true radicalism of Pope Francis’ message: ‘[the mercy of] Jesus must always be at the center; we look to Christ, who reveals to us the face of God, the [Giver] of mercies.’”
Issued under the name of Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy may be the most personal of such books and it is the ‘transcript’ of an extended interview-conversation between Andrea Tornielli and Francis, in July, 2015. No topic is avoided in Tornielli’s questions nor in answers from Francis : the death penalty, eco-justice – mercy for ‘our common home’, human sexuality, the very name of God, immigration issues, the needs of the elderly, homeless, and the poor.
Interviewer, Andrea Tornielli, was captivated by the words from the new Pontiff in his earliest homilies. On every occasion, Francis boldly and graciously proclaimed: “The message of Jesus is mercy. For me, and I say this with humility, it is the Lord’s strongest message”; additionally, “the first and only step required to experience mercy…is to acknowledge that we are in need of mercy…and mercy is the way in which God forgives. The medicine is there, the healing is there -if only we take a small step toward God…even just the desire to take that step.” These are words of hope which this world longs, yes needs, to hear.
In this modest volume, the reader experiences an intimate, and power-filled, question and answer dialogue. The text of the book is structured in nine brief sections consisting of questions posed by Tornielli to the Pope – framed on one side by Tornielli’s opening ‘insider’ notes “To the Reader”, and balanced with the Appendix – the full text of the Papal Bull (2015) Jubilee Indiction, twenty-five beautiful and briefly written statements.
Central to Francis’s personal theology and teaching are two very familiar biblical accounts regarding the boundless mercy of God: first, John 8: 1-11, Jesus at the attempted stoning of the adulterous woman. Jesus and the crowd and the woman are in dialogue about sin and retribution and mercy; second, Luke 15:11-32, Jesus’ parable of the Loving Father/Prodigal Son. These two passages are exegeted by Pope Francis as he unfolds his perspective of and passion for a life and ministry of mercy in the image of Jesus Christ: the Christian journey should be a life lived “to be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God.” It follows that the ‘motto’ identified by this Pontiff for this Holy Year would become “Merciful like the Father.”