The bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London Hlib (Lonchyna) reporting during the general meeting of the Synod of Bishops on October 9 streesed on mercy and truth as key concepts to take into account in teaching on marriage.
Please read the text of his intervention translated by Athanasius McVay.
“Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God” (Instrumentum Laboris, 37).
The face of God, as His Holiness reminds us, is the face of mercy. This is the face we, the Church, must show the faithful and the unfaithful, people of good will and those who seek not the Lord. Our task is to manifest God’s everlasting mercy (see Ps 136).
Yet, if mercy is boundless, why does not everyone experience it? Because mercy cannot be encountered unless it is measured against the eternal law, which is truth. “Mercy and truth have met together”, says the psalmist (Ps 85:10 NKJV). One must seek the truth in order to experience mercy.
The first words Jesus uttered when he began his public ministry were, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Jesus is uniting mercy with truth, as did the psalmist. In order to enter the kingdom – the gift of God’s mercy – Jesus calls his disciples not to self-fulfilment, not to having fun, but to repentance and faith. This entails a change of mentality: from the ways of the world to the ways of the kingdom, from thinking only humanly to having the mindset of Christ (see Phil 2:5).
Jesus is showing mercy by calling people to conversion. Pope Saint John Paul II illustrated this in the third Mystery of Light: Jesus’ “proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 21). Mercy means leading a person to the truth. Mercy means challenging people. Mercy means not covering up reality with gift wrap.
The Church should not be afraid to speak the truth about marriage and the family. The “demands of the Kingdom of God” are indeed sublime, out of reach, not attainable by our own means; nevertheless, they make us free when – with the grace of God – we seek to fulfil them.
However, maybe we fear being irrelevant, out of touch, not modern, not merciful. Perhaps this is because we do not trust that the Spirit is guiding us; or the Word is not strong enough; or it will not appeal to our secularised world.
If we want people to believe in marriage, to believe in the family, we ought to help them, first of all, to repent and believe. We should not water down the tough words Jesus pronounced. We should begin with a challenge: “Repent, and believe in the gospel”, and then we shall arrive at mercy: “The kingdom of God is at hand”.