After this initial period, challenges and routine "quenches all joy" in the family, he observed.
"What can save a marriage from going downhill without any hope of coming back up again is mercy, understood in the biblical sense."
In this context, marriage is "not just reciprocal forgiveness but spouses acting with "compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience."
"Mercy adds agape to eros, it adds the love that gives of oneself and has compassion to the love of need and desire."
"Shouldn't a husband and wife, then, take pity on each other? And those of us who live in community, shouldn't we take pity on one another instead of judging one another?"
Fr. Cantalamessa centered his sermon on Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, in which he speaks of becoming "reconciled with God."
St. Paul is not referring to the "historical reconciliation between God and humanity," or "the sacramental reconciliation that takes place in Baptism and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation," Fr. Cantalamessa said.
The passage "refers to an existential and personal reconciliation that needs to be implemented in the present," he said, noting that it is addressed to the baptized Christians of Corinth, and also "to us here and now."
Reflecting on the "existential and psychological dimension" of reconciliation with God, Fr. Cantalamessa acknowledged the "distorted image" of God which alienates people "from religion and faith."
"People unconsciously link God's will to everything that is unpleasant and painful, to what can be seen as somehow destroying individual freedom and development," he said.
"It is somewhat as though God were the enemy of every celebration, joy, and pleasure – a severe inquisitor-God."
A remnant of the pagan view of God, this is an image of an all-powerful being who asserts control over individuals, with an emphasis on the impossibility of making reparation for the "transgression of his law," he said. Such a perception causes "fear" and "resentment" toward God.
"It is a vestige of the pagan idea of God that has never been entirely eradicated, and perhaps cannot be eradicated, from the human heart," he said: that "God is the one who intervenes with divine punishment to reestablish the order disrupted by evil."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
In contrast, God's mercy "has never been disregarded," he said.
"The Year of Mercy is a golden opportunity to restore the true image of the biblical God who not only has mercy but is mercy."
Reflecting on the Apostle John's statement "God is love," Fr. Cantalamessa observed that God's love within the Trinity is without mercy. This is because the love of the Father and the Son is a "necessity even though it occurs with the utmost freedom; the Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son."
"The sin of human beings does not change the nature of this love but causes it to make a qualitative leap: mercy as a gift now becomes mercy as forgiveness."
Fr. Cantalamessa turned his reflection to the relationship between justice and his mercy, citing Paul's letter to the Romans which speaks of all sinners being justified by God's grace through "redemption which is in Christ Jesus."
"God shows his righteousness and justice by having mercy! This is the great revelation."