The Journey to Mercy


by Fr. John Harris OP


During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are all invited to go on ‘The Journey to Mercy’.

Very often, mercy can seem to be something outside of ourselves. It can seem like a thing to be received, or given away. It is more true to see mercy as a journey. It is the Christian’s journey towards trust.

St. Faustina knew the Lord was inviting her to come closer, to allow their friendship to deepen. Her experiences of Jesus were very intimate, but they were not just for her, as her experiences of Christ’s mercy, opened a path for us. We have been invited to go on a journey towards mercy, both within our own lives, and reaching out to others.

There is no better parable about this journey to mercy than the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we should deeply reflect on this parable.

In this revered parable, we meet the loving father and his two sons. With full knowledge, the younger son deeply insults his father by asking for his inheritance to go and live a life of disgraceful debauchery. In Jewish culture, this would have been the ultimate insult and slight on his father’s reputation and social standing. This would be unforgivable.

It was a journey away from God, to the life of sin and selfishness. This is the journey we make as a sinner. We chose our own plans above those that are right and true.

In everyone’s life, there comes a moment when we think about the direction of our life. This can be caused by many factors like illness, the death of someone we love, financial worries, old age, or the good example of others.

In this parable, we see that it was homelessness and hunger that caused the younger son to think. At this extremely low moment, the younger son decides, pragmatically, that he would be better off with his father, as one of the servants. This wasn’t an inspired moment of conversion, but rather another selfish decision to avoid being cold and hungry.

With no further maturity in his thinking, he sets out on his journey. On approaching his family home, his father rushes out to greet him. On receiving his fathers embrace, he no longer presents his thoughts on how his father should treat him, but only admits he no longer deserves to be considered his son.

The father welcomes him back and the younger son allows the father’s love to teach him about mercy. Embraced by his father, he comes home and is again his son. His journey is from grave licentious sin to being welcomed home as a cherished son.

This is the journey to mercy. Even though we are guilty of sin, we must allow ourselves to be embraced by a loving father, whose love for us teaches us about mercy and love, and helps us to understand that He is delighted we returned to Him.

It is worth noting that the father waited on his son. He didn’t go out searching for him. He had to accept his son’s free will. It had to be the son’s choice to make the first movement home, even with exceptionally selfish motives. But once he made the first move, the father received him wholeheartedly.

The father’s mercy didn’t approve of how he squandered his wealth. His respect for his son’s free will allowed the son to make his own decisions, but also suffer the consequences.

Mercy gives us freedom but it never approves of sin. Mercy allows us to freely choose to do the good and rejoices when we do. We must never think that God’s mercy is an excuse for us to do evil. God’s mercy allows us the freedom to come back when we have sinned.

But mercy isn’t simply about sin and our conversion from a life of selfishness and sin. In some ways that is only the beginning of the journey to mercy. Now that the younger brother has come home, he must learn also to become merciful like his father. This is the deeper journey to mercy. Mercy transforms us to live the very life of God himself.

This is precisely the journey the older brother is invited to take. This son has never strayed from the right path and one could be forgiven for thinking that he didn’t need mercy.

Mercy isn’t simply about sin. It is also about life, the invitation to the joy of living the Christian life. Turning from sin is but the first step on the journey of mercy. There is one thing for certain about mercy: it doesn’t let us be. It doesn’t allow us to be content where we are at. Mercy always invites us to move deeper in our relationship with the Lord and with our neighbour.

The older brother in the parable is being asked by the merciful father to enter into the celebration of mercy, but he resists. At the end of the parable, we are left wondering if the older brother actually stays outside or enters into mercy. In many ways, the younger brother has the easier journey to make, but it is only part of the journey. The real journey of mercy is the one opened up by the father to the older brother. He is being invited to become mercy.

As we celebrate this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we too are being invited to go on the journey of mercy. Yes, the journey from sin to God but also from mercy to mercy; from the reception of mercy to the living of mercy. It is only when we live mercy that we can fully say that we have received mercy. If we fail to love then we have to wonder if we truly believe we are loved.

Let us continue on our many journeys of mercy, by accepting the mercy of God for us in our own lives and by becoming mercy to others.

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St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland

St. Eunan's Cathedral

Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland



You can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with the Sisters of Merciful Jesus everyday at 3pm via the webcam in St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland.