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A Life Shaped by Mercy

The appeal to Metz in the conclusion to Laurie Cassidy’s article on the ethical implications of photographs of suffering reminded of the place of mercy/pity in Sobrino’s account of the life of Jesus and the Christian life as a whole.

The primary christological significance of the miracles is that they show a basic dimension of Jesus: his pity. The miracles not only demonstrate Jesus’ powers as healer, whatever they may have been, but mainly his reaction to the sorrows of the poor and weak. The Synoptics keep repeating that Jesus felt compassion and pity for the sorrows of others, particularly the simple people who followed him. “He saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and cured their sick” (Mt 14:14)….this pity is what at once explains and is expressed in Jesus’ miracles, and what defines him in basic ways. Jesus appears as someone deeply moved by the suffering of others, reacting to this in a saving way and making this reaction something first and last for him, the criterion of his whole practice. Jesus sees the suffering of others as something final that can only be reacted to adequately with finality…Jesus’ pity was not jus a feeling, but a reaction – and so action – to the suffering of others, motivated by the mere fact that this suffering was in front of him. Pity is therefore not just another virtue in Jesus, but a basic attitude and practice. This is what the Gospels emphasize and what Jesus himself stresses in Luke by defining the complete man on the basis of pity: the Samaritan “moved with pity” (Luke 10:33), and by defining God himself on the same basis: the father of the prodigal son “moved with pity” (Luke 15:20). And this is what Jesus demands of all: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator, 90-91. The same idea is expressed well in the opening chapters of Sobrino’s Principle of Mercy (see pp. 17-20 in particular) and it fundamentally shapes Sobrino’s account of the option for the poor.

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