Today’s gospel is the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32). Here is a Bible Alive commentary.
Jesus attracted those on the very outside of society. Tax collectors, prostitutes and other public sinners clearly enjoyed Jesus’ company. They were drawn by his acceptance of them. This made them open to hearing what he had to say. The Pharisees, in contrast, were scandalized by the company he kept. They harshly judged those they saw as morally bankrupt or spiritually inferior. Their understanding of God was faulty, to say the least! As a result they were reduced to grumbling about Jesus.
Typically Jesus seized the moment to teach about his Father. Today’s parable brings us into the essence of his mission — to reveal his Father. So often our image of God is tainted or distorted. We can fall into two extremes: on one hand, we imagine God as a tyrannical judge who is angry much of the time; on the other, we settle for the notion that God is indulgent: his teaching and commands having little or no bearing on our lives and leaves us free to go off and do our own thing with impunity.
Jesus’ parable brings us right into the heart of his Father. God has given each of us free will — we are at liberty to follow or reject him. However, this immense gift of freedom carries with it a profound responsibility. We are responsible for our actions and decisions. The son exercised his freedom and chose to leave the safety of his father’s house. At the dawn of creation the human race also freely chose the path leading away from God. Removed from the love, security and protection of the Father’s house we lost our way. Sin, death and corruption robbed us of the dignity we once possessed. Like the prodigal son we became slaves of our passions and drives.
The image of the chastened son returning to his father’s house is deeply moving. We do well to ponder and meditate upon this picture of profound human need satisfied by divine mercy. Jesus’ teaching about his Father exposes us to a love so divine and compelling that it has the power to melt the hardest of hearts.
As we journey through this year we too can experience the warm embrace of our heavenly Father. Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium: ‘Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’ How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.’ (para. 3)