Thus, mercy becomes an indispensable element for shaping mutual relationships between people, in a spirit of deepest respect for what is human, and in a spirit of mutual (communion).
This is a high ideal, and I think even saints and disciples among us struggle with this at times. It requires making real friends among those in need. Or at least attending to people with tenderness and sensitivity.
It is impossible to establish this bond between people, if they wish to regulate their mutual relationships solely according to the measure of justice. In every sphere of interpersonal relationships justice must, so to speak, be “corrected ” to a considerable extent by that love which, as St. Paul proclaims, “is patient and kind” or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity. Let us remember, furthermore, that merciful love also means the cordial tenderness and sensitivity so eloquently spoken of in the parable of the prodigal son,(Cf. Lk. 15:11-32) and also in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.(Cf. Lk. 15:1-10)
If we struggle with mercy, we can only begin with those closest to us:
Consequently, merciful love is supremely indispensable between those who are closest to one another: between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between friends; and it is indispensable in education and in pastoral work.
St John Paul, through his own priestly ministry, certainly knew this by experience in his work with young people, and as a teacher, and later a pastor and bishop.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana