“His Mercy endures forever” are sweet words from the Psalmist (Psalm 107, et. al.), reminding us of the eternal gift of God’s Mercy.  Does this mean we can break the rules, and because He’s a “merciful” God, there will be no consequences? Not at all, but a look at a story of mercy helps clarify the scope of this attribute of God.

                The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is a “blueprint of mercy”.  Catholics who side with the parable’s elder son and hold that the father further indulged the younger son’s bad behavior by throwing a party upon his return miss a key element of the story.  In “coming to his senses” (Luke 15:17), the younger son realizes that he’s done something worse than waste his monetary inheritance.  He experiences even deeper regret at the broken relationship with his Heavenly Father and his earthly father.  He takes responsibility for his actions, apologizes, and deep joy is shared by father and son at his return. (Luke 15:18-24)  But the elder son was angered and would not join the celebration.  Though he had always “followed the rules”, he too, needed to experience a conversion in order to enter into that God-given joy.   

                It is necessary for all Catholics to nurture our faith and realize that we are in “a state of conversion.”  We either grow closer to God, or we fall away from Him.  The first challenge of this Jubilee Year of Mercy is for us to “come to our senses” and grow in that self-knowledge of the ugly fact that I, too, am a sinner. Too harsh, you think?  Come on Father, I’m a good person. But what would your spouse, children or coworkers say if you asked them, “Do you think I have any sins?”  We would be surprised by their answers, but this truth “will set us free.” (John 8:32)  We must have faith in this:  God is bigger than our sins.  Whether our sins are sins of passion and excess, like the younger son, or sins associated with pride, like the older son, God will forgive them if we humble ourselves and ask.  The Mercy of God is readily available in the sacrament of confession, also known as “the sacrament of Mercy”. We delight God our Merciful Father when we go to confession.  By confessing our sins, we give God the chance to remove those obstacles we have placed in our relationship with Him.  The result of seeking mercy?  Peace and joy:  “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  (Luke 15:7)


About Fr. Tony Stephens

Fr. Tony was born in 1976 and is a native of Angelus, Kansas. He graduated from a public high school in 1995, and afterwards he attended Christendom College in Front Royal Virginia. Discerning a call to religious life and the priesthood, he joined the Fathers of Mercy in 2000. In 2001, Fr. Tony professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and then he studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. While at the Josephinum, he received his Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained a priest in 2005, and he served for two years as the assistant pastor of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Nicholasville, KY. In 2007, Fr. Tony was assigned to begin traveling and preaching parish retreats, also known as “parish missions”. His travels have taken him all over the United States, into Canada, and also to different parts of the Australian Continent. From 2009-2015, he served as the Vocations Director and Student Master for the community. During this time, he also helped out part time in the preaching apostolate of the Congregation. Beginning in August of 2015, he joined the formation faculty at the Athenaeum of Ohio / Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, OH, where he currently works at the Director of Field Education, the Director of Pastoral Interns, and assists on the formation faculty.