In the teaching of Christ Himself, this image inherited from the Old Testament becomes at the same time simpler and more profound. This is perhaps most evident in the parable of the prodigal son.(Cf. Lk. 15:14-32) Although the word “mercy” does not appear, it nevertheless expresses the essence of the divine mercy in a particularly clear way. This is due not so much to the terminology, as in the Old Testament books, as to the analogy that enables us to understand more fully the very mystery of mercy, as a profound drama played out between the father’s love and the prodigality and sin of the son.
Jesus could have preached on mercy as a technical matter. My sense–and you readers might expect it of an artist–that the quality is better shown through drama, if not music. We are not dealing with a quality that can be entirely grasped by the mind. We must go deeper, and St John Paul will take us there.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana