“A man had two sons . . . .”
In Misericordiae Vultus (MV), Pope Francis calls this Gospel text “the core of the Gospel and our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love, and bringing consolation through pardon” (MV, 9). As leaders of liturgical ministry, we have a duty to embrace this parable as the way to “Jesus Christ, who is the face of the Father’s mercy” (MV, 1).
In the parable of the father with two sons, we experience a human echo of the immense wideness of God’s mercy. The younger son is welcomed with open arms, even before he could deliver his rehearsed confession. He is given robes, rings, and the fatted calf at a banquet in his honor! The older son is reminded that he is already embraced by the father’s love—a fact he seems to have forgotten. Jesus reveals to us a God who does not think of justice in human terms. Instead, God does the unexpected, saying “no!” to our sense of retribution and instead showering us with divine mercy. This mercy returns us to wholeness. It returns us to right-relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. It makes us new.
Our world is torn and divided by hate, mistrust, and vengeance. But our God will have no part of this. Even though we may have sinned against heaven and earth or forgotten divine mercy, God waits to bring us home. We see this enacted each Sunday when saint and sinner are gathered by our merciful God – when each person, no matter how “lost,” is welcomed, acclaimed, and treated with dignity. The Sunday Eucharist proclaims joyfully that, though we are sinners, we are loved by God. May we in pastoral ministry help lead the people of God along the way, until we all rejoice as one in the heavenly banquet where, freed from sin, we will forever “taste and see how good God is.”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Sean E. Whelan
Immaculate Conception Parish
Traverse City, Michigan