call to maturity

Mar 2, 2024


Today’s gospel, the parable of the loving father or prodigal son, is perhaps the best known of Jesus’ teaching.

Our problem is that the moment we hear the first words – “Jesus told this parable: a man had two sons..,” we think we know the story and that we have fully appreciated the meaning. Not so! If we read and listen with open hearts and minds we will hear meanings and messages that we have never noticed before.

I was inspired by reading this reflection from Pope Benedict a few years ago. It is truly original – and a real encouragement for anyone who is seeking greater maturity of Christian faith.

I know I have shared it before, but I certainly can’t write anything better.

So here it is again:

Pope Benedict:  Sunday 14 March 2010, St. Peter’s Square.

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 civilisation be without this revelation of a God 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; 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 their parents: at first the child depends on the parents, then asserts their autonomy; and, in the end if the child develops well they reach a mature relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.

In these stages we can also identify moments along each person’s journey in their relationship with God.

There can be a phase that resembles childhood: religion prompted by need, by dependence. As people grows up and become emancipated, they want to liberate themselves from this submission and become free and adult, able to organise 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 faithfulness and even if we distance ourselves and get lost God continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our errors and speaking to our conscience from within in order to call us back home.

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 recognising 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.


FFF IN THE CAFE… Send your name and the name of a cafe or bar to Scribble FFF on a table napkin, take a seat and wait.

Join these gatherings:

TODAY Saturday 2 March 2024 10.30am – Muffin Break 235 Main Street, Upper Hutt Central. Teresa

Sunday 3 March 2024 (& every Sunday) 12 noon. St Anthony’s Church, 66 Falkirk Ave, SeatounKim

Monday 4 March 2024  10.00am (& every Monday). Moku Cafe. Bush Inn Centre, Waimairi Road,  Christchurch. Trish

Tuesday 5 March 2024 10.00am 316 Waiwhetu Road (California Garden Centre) Lower Hutt. Catherine

Email me to add another:

Image above: Eric Kilby


  1. Perhaps this story also gives us a sharper Lenten consciousness of a God
    Who daily keeps watch and runs to greet us at the least sign of openness
    Who is not embarrassed to leave all at the feast to come to our side to sort things out…

    • Wow, what a great writing from Pope Benedict. Let me never forget the words ‘… a freely given love… greater than our wretchedness.’

  2. Fr John
    I have always failed to understand the attitude of that other son who got all upset when the other returned with great acclaim by his father.. Pope Benedict has explained it so well!

  3. Surely the older son was worried about sharing his inheritance he stayed home to protect. This is a good analogy for us too. We don’t earn our way to fullness of life with Our Father/Mother/God it is all gift. Some of us have been very gifted and others struggle we need to welcome with open arms and joy those who struggle that is the moral of the story for me. This is how we show our love and gratitude.
    Had an enjoyable gathering today more to come in the future thanks for the prompted, John.


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