At today’s general audience Pope Francis focused on the parable of the prodigal son to show how God welcomes us all with an unconditional love. Even in the most difficult situations, he told pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, God waits for us and longs to embrace us.
The Pope explained that the parable talks about both the prodigal son and his older brother, who also needs to learn to accept the father’s mercy. Both the younger son, who is expecting to be punished, and the older son, who expects a reward for his good behavior, are not acting according to God’s love, which transcends both reward and punishment, the Pope said. The greatest joy for the father, he stressed, is to see his two sons reunited and recognizing each other as brothers.
Pope Francis notes that the parable ends without our knowing how the older brother responds to the father’s invitation to celebrate his brother’s return. Jesus is challenging each of us, he said, to think about how we respond to God’s invitation, to open our hearts to his reconciling love and to become “merciful like the Father”.
Please find below the English summary of the Pope’s words at the Wednesday general audience:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to Jesus’ parable of the merciful father who welcomes back his prodigal son with unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus wishes to teach us that we are children of God not because of any merits of our own but because of the infinite love of our heavenly Father.
How often do we need to be reminded of God’s unchanging love and ready forgiveness, lest we lose heart when we ourselves or our dear ones go astray! The parable speaks not only of the prodigal son, but also of his older brother, who must also learn to accept the father’s mercy, which transcends both reward and punishment.
By calling for a feast of thanksgiving, the father is really asking each son to share his joy by recognizing the other as a brother. The parable ends without our knowing how the older brother responds to this invitation. Jesus in effect is challenging each of us to think about how we respond to God’s invitation, to open our hearts to his reconciling love and to become “merciful like the Father”.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Denmark, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Seychelles and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!