The Prodigal Son

In this Year of Mercy, the story of the Prodigal Son has great importance.

Of the three characters in this familiar parable, the focus seems to be on the undisciplined son, with whom we the readers/listeners tend to identify -- and we like the story for its happy ending. We sometimes strain or break our relationship with God and being the recipients of the Father’s loving forgiveness is, indeed, very consoling.

As for the other son, we have contradictory sentiments about his situation. On the one hand, as sinners who repent, we disapprove of his resenting the father’s generosity; on the other hand, because most of us tend to have a good image of ourselves, we sympathize with his lament that the father never threw a party for him.

Regarding the father, we never put ourselves in his shoes. After all, the father in the story is seen as God extending His loving mercy to us sinners.

But there is a way in which we can imitate the father.

This is the Year of Mercy and we are supposed to be merciful as He is merciful, as Pope Francis has been encouraging us. So, this story can challenge us to reflect on whether or not we have gone out of our way to greet those who have offended us and whether or not we can accept them without rehashing all the alleged offenses of the past – and then hold a feast!

Actually, inviting estranged friends and relatives to a family-and-friends gathering, a wedding, or someone’s birthday party or greeting them after church – any feast – is one way to let bygones be bygones in the midst of hugs and laughter

In reality, every day is a day to forgive and welcome someone back into friendship and family – to imitate what the father in the story did and what God does for us all the time.