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Aggressive Tenderness: Mercy on the Move – Jubilee Year of Mercy!

April 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Carmelite Sisters, Divine Mercy, Easter, Mercy

Aggressive Tenderness:
Mercy on the Move!
Jubilee Year of Mercy


For several weeks, I have been pondering an unusual little phrase that I came across in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ [Evangelii Gaudium]. The words just jumped off the page. He writes,

“Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with an aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil.” (paragraph #85)

I’ve never heard aggressive used to describe tenderness. How can tenderness be aggressive? Or how can one be aggressively tender? I was even wondering if this was a mistake in the translation. But the more I prayed about these two little words the more they seemed to be a mysterious summary of the essence of this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Unfortunately, some people seem to think that this Year of Mercy is simply an invitation to increase our efforts to be ‘nice’ and ‘tolerant.’ However, the love that Jesus embodied is lightyears beyond a bland notion of tolerance.

Passionate! Powerful! Triumphant! The Father’s ardent love which stoops down to heal sinful, weak humanity! This is the mercy that we bask in during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. God’s tenderness is aggressive!

GebhardFugelJesusUndDerGangNachEmmausWe see this most perfectly in Jesus’ resurrection. After the power of God’s love definitively conquered sin and death, Jesus sought out His disciples to offer them the peace of His mercy. Jesus came looking for them. He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The apostles were shocked as Jesus walked through locked doors to banish their fear and disbelief. Jesus could have sat outside the tomb and waited for the apostles to come to meet Him. But His love was eager; He took the initiative to go to meet them. He desired to comfort their frightened hearts and to forgive their guilty consciences. Jesus’ merciful love was missionary.

The Divine Mercy image beautifully depicts Jesus’ burning zeal to pour out His mercy upon humanity.   On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to St. Faustina and gave her a special mandate. In this vision, He wore a white robe which was drawn slightly aside at the breast. From His Heart emanated red and white rays symbolizing the blood and water which gushed forth when, on the cross, His Heart was pierced by a lance. These rays represent His all-powerful love which is poured out upon the world.  Jesus requested that St. Faustina paint this image so that many people could draw grace from this picture.

for post on aggressive tendernessIn the past 85 years, the Divine Mercy image has become one of the most well-known images of Jesus. One of the most striking aspects of this devotion is that it captures the great movement of the Heart of God in our day. In this image we see that once again Jesus is drawing us, begging us to come to receive the love of His Heart. But this image also depicts Jesus walking toward us. Jesus is inviting us to receive His mercy but it seems that this invitation has a certain impatience and urgency. Perhaps Jesus knows we are too wounded, too heavy laden and too stuck in sin to come to Him in order to seek mercy. He is coming to us!

As we [continue] this blessed Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us allow our hearts to be set ablaze with Jesus’ missionary zeal. Jesus wants to reach out to the lost, the frightened, the lonely, the hopeless and the broken. But He chooses to do so through us. He is calling us to be missionaries of His mercy. Let us bear the victorious banner of the cross with an aggressive tenderness as we go out against the assaults of evil in our world. God’s passionate and powerful mercy is on the move!


Previously published on the website of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, used with permission.


Art: Jesus und der Gang nach Emmaus (Jesus and the Walk to Emmaus), Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939), turn of the 19th/20th century, PD-worldwide age; Divine Mercy, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, 1934 [Painting in Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius], PD-US copyright expired; both Wikimedia Commons.


Editor's Note: Click here for information on Divine Mercy Devotions and much more from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts!

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About Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

PROMOTING A DEEPER SPIRITUAL LIFE THROUGH HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION AND RETREATS. The way of life of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the Gospel, the Church, and the spirituality of Carmel as lived out through the charism of our foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its foundation in a long history and living tradition. Our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service of the Church as we promote a deeper spiritual life among God's people through education, healthcare, and spiritual retreats. We are called by God to be a presence inflamed within our world, witnessing to God's love through prayer, joyful witness and loving service. Our mission flows from each sister's profound life of prayer as Mother Luisita, our foundress, wrote, "the soul of each Carmelite raises herself to Christ, Who is her heaven, while her shadow falls in charity upon earth doing good to all people."

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  • Joan

    “God’s passionate and powerful mercy is on the move!” I love it! Thank you for this.

  • Patricia

    Jesus asked St. Faustina to be His Apostle of Mercy to prepare the world for His Second Coming. Whether we are alive for that or not, we will have our own personal encounter with Jesus at the entrance to our own eternal life. He is coming towards us with His mercy now. We can only repent and accept this now. Especially today, Divine Mercy Sunday, respond to the aggressive tenderness of the heart of Jesus, who is asking you to join Him for all eternity.

  • GHM_52

    God’s love towards His creation has always been aggressive. From the Old to the New Testament we always see God aggressively pursuing us in order to save us from Satan and ourselves. God bends over backwards performing incredibly dramatic feats (the parting of the Red Sea; God’s physical entrance into human history; His many health-restoring miracles; His resurrecting some who had died; His awful Holy Passion and Death by crucifixion; His resurrection from the dead and defeat of death so we could live in Him and through Him again; His giving us His Most Blessed Mother to orient us to Him by a mere prayer gesture no matter how faint; the Church and the Sacraments; St. Joseph as the Guardian of the Church; the Eucharist for our consumption; the Communion of Saints…If that tenderly devoted love is not aggressive, I don’t know what is! In the face of such aggressive devotion, only an equally aggressive love response will do. When you think about it, anything less is an insult. May He continue to have that holy aggressive mercy on us all!

    • marybernadette

      Very True!

  • Judy Silhan

    The words aggressive and tenderness, as you suggest, are not usually used together to describe loving tenderness towards someone. Yet, thinking about the meaning of aggressive as having determination or an energetic pursuit for something or someone, the terms together make sense. God has been determined from the beginning to show us His mercy, since the fall of Adam and Eve. His aggressive tenderness, in a sense, drove him to allow His only Son to die for us so we could know His love and mercy. Similarly, as you mentioned, particularly in this Year of Mercy, we need to experience this aggressive tenderness towards others with our own missionary zeal, not in tolerance and niceness, but in confronting the assaults of evil in our world today, feelings of abandonment, loneliness, fear, hopelessness, and brokenness. Recently I have been called to this aggressive tenderness in dealing with my son, who has been on drugs, imprisoned and is choosing to be homeless. As he left my home a couple weeks ago, I placed in his hand a Miraculous Medal and shared with him how Mary, our mother would be watching over him. I also met and saw the brokenness in a truly homeless woman who is mentally ill and who felt abandoned by everyone, feeling the need to talk to anyone who would just listen for a little while, which I did, as well as take her to lunch and to a bus stop afterwards. I hope and feel that these two people experienced God’s aggressive tenderness through my actions.
    Thank you so much your much needed reflection on God’s mercy and love.

  • marybernadette

    I truly hope and pray that the entire world will come to know and love this ‘wonderful Devotion.’. With the Lord’s ‘Incomprehensible Love and Mercy’ proven in His ‘Life Passion and Resurrection and giving His ‘Apostle of Mercy’ St. Faustina the ‘Last Hope’ for the world before the ‘Judgement’, let us truly take to heart this ‘Aggressive Tenderness’ and pray and act for God’s Will’ in each of our lives for the ‘Salvation of the whole world.’

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