I spent time today working on my homily for Saturday night. (The bishop is with us for Sunday and will preach but I still have the Saturday night Mass at Hanmer).
I had decided to pick a couple of quotations from the pope’s reflection to share with you here, but I was unable to pick out just one or two pieces – the entire piece is superb reflection on the importance of adult faith, based on this Sunday’s Gospel of the Loving Father / Prodigal Son parable.
So, thanks to Pope Emeritus Benedict, here is the reflection:
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the father and the two sons better known as the Parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Lk 15:11-32) is proclaimed. This passage of St Luke constitutes one of the peaks of spirituality and literature of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of a God the Father so full of mercy?
It never fails to move us and every time we hear or read it, it can suggest to us ever new meanings. Above all, this Gospel text has the power of speaking to us of God, of enabling us to know his Face and, better still, his Heart.
After Jesus has told us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were before. We now know God; he is our Father who out of love created us to be free and endowed us with a conscience, who suffers when we get lost and rejoices when we return.
For this reason, our relationship with him is built up through events, just as it happens for every child with his parents: at first he depends on them, then he asserts his autonomy; and, in the end if he develops well he reaches a mature relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.
In these stages we can also identify moments along the person’s journey in their relationship with God. There can be a phase that resembles childhood: religion prompted by need, by dependence. As mperson grows up and becomes emancipated, they wants to liberate themselves from this submission and become free and adult, able to organize themselves and make their own decisions, even thinking they can do without God. Precisely this stage is delicate and can lead to atheism, yet even this frequently conceals the need to discover God’s true Face. Fortunately for us, God never fails in his faithfulness and even if we distance ourselves and get lost he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our errors and speaking to our conscience from within in order to call us back to him.
In this parable the sons behave in opposite ways: the younger son leaves home and sinks ever lower whereas the elder son stays at home, but he too has an immature relationship with the Father. In fact, when his brother comes back, the elder brother does not rejoice like the Father; on the contrary he becomes angry and refuses to enter the house.
The two sons represent two immature ways of relating to God: rebellion and childish obedience. Both these forms are surmounted through the experience of mercy. Only by experiencing forgiveness, by recognizing one is loved with a freely given love a love greater than our wretchedness but also than our own merit do we at last enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.
Dear friends, let us meditate on this parable. Let us compare ourselves to the two sons and, especially, contemplate the Heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and be regenerated by his merciful love. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy (Mater Misericordiae), help us to do this.