In the readings today we experience the mercy of God. It is evident in all of our readings. Moses pleading for the people who had apostasised by worshipping the golden calf., Paul stating that he had been forgiven even though he had been a blasphemer and persecutor of the Church and in the Gospel Jesus uses three parables to teach the Pharisees about mercy.

The bulk of the text used in the Gospel is taken up by the story of a man with two sons. If we look at the three characters, the father, the younger son; who squandered his inheritance and the older brother; who diligently worked for the Father; can we see ourself in any of these characters.

As a father and grandfather, I nowadays automatically look at the actions of the father and reflect on how I have reacted when my children needed my forgiveness. On those occasions I have not been as forthcoming as the father in the parable. That father ran out to greet the wayward child, this father [me] probably sulked a bit and mulled things over before offering any forgiveness. That father didn’t even allow the son to ask for forgiveness, he readily forgave before the words could leave the son’s mouth, this father probably made my children squirm a bit, thinking I was teaching them a lesson.

If I look at the actions of the wayward son, I know that I have done things in my life which have deeply hurt those I love. Like the wayward son I rehearsed how I was going to ask for forgiveness. Again, like the wayward son, I have put distance between myself and my heavenly Father; when I came to my senses, I carefully examined my conscience and rehearsed what I was going to say before I entered the Confessional to seek Reconciliation.

There have also been times when I have been like the diligent son, head down, getting on with things and then feeling resentment when no-one appeared to recognise my efforts. Wrongly justifying any anger to myself, when all I was doing was what was expected, nothing spectacular; just plodding along and getting upset when others in my eyes seemed to progress.

This Gospel strikes at the heart of our relationship with God and our neighbour.

How can we ask God to forgive us, if we do not offer forgiveness to those who have slighted us?

How can we expect God to forgive us if we do not acknowledge our sins and take them to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

How can we be reconciled with our brothers and sisters if we begrudge it when they are forgiven by God?

In all three parables Jesus explains the joy felt in heaven when we repent. This is full on joy, the shepherd wanted to share his joy with his neighbours, the housewife wanted to share her joy with all her neighbours. The father through a major celebration with singing and dancing and wining and dining.

When was the last time you felt this joyful?

What Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and us is that yes, there are rules to follow and yes Jesus knows that we will get things wrong sometimes, however, we are not to continue doing things wrong, we are expected to repent and try at the earliest possible moment to be reconciled with those we offend and with the rest of our community. As Jesus said “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.”

For the times we have been the lost sheep, Jesus pleads with us to come home, He even comes to find us. It is then up to us to repent and kick-start the celebrations in heaven.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 210-211: God of mercy
CCC 604-605, 1846-1848: God takes the initiative in redemption
CCC 1439, 1700, 2839: the Prodigal Son as an example of conversion
CCC 1465, 1481: the Prodigal Son and the sacrament of Penance

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those travelling, that they will arrive safely at their destination.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • All the priests who are moving to new roles this September.
  • All prisoners and their families.
  • Those working to help the people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Those on pilgrimage.