Mercy in its early stages may be an apprenticeship for believers beginning the path of full discipleship. For a mature follower of Christ, it s a lifestyle. What does that mean? First, St John Paul describes it as connected with evangelization:
This authentically evangelical process is not just a spiritual transformation realized once and for all: it is a whole lifestyle, an essential and continuous characteristic of the Christian vocation.
It is also part of the baptismal vocation.
It consists in the constant discovery and persevering practice of love as a unifying and also elevating power despite all difficulties of a psychological or social nature: it is a question, in fact, of a merciful love which, by its essence, is a creative love.
Not only is mercy a way of life, but it invites us to expect new insights. It underscores that each of us is a work in progress, and none of us have yet arrived at a satisfactory level of sainthood.
In reciprocal relationships between persons merciful love is never a unilateral act or process. Even in the cases in which everything would seem to indicate that only one party is giving and offering, and the other only receiving and taking (for example, in the case of a physician giving treatment, a teacher teaching, parents supporting and bringing up their children, a benefactor helping the needy), in reality the one who gives is always also a beneficiary. In any case, (she or) he too can easily find (her or) himself in the position of the one who receives, who obtains a benefit, who experiences merciful love; (she or) he too can find (her or) himself the object of mercy.
Mercy is also mutual between people.
Mercy as a lifestyle involves as acts or fruits: evangelization, baptismal call, creativity, personal growth, and reciprocal.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana