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March 11March 11
Are you a forgiving person?
When it comes to family, friends, co-workers or others who have wronged you, are you able to get past the hurt and pain?
Do you seek forgiveness when you hurt others? When you sin against the Father?
If we’re honest, most of the time it isn’t easy to work through any of these situations.
But the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32), which was the Gospel reading last weekend, reminds us that we are children of an all-forgiving God who welcomes us home when we return to him after going astray.
Pope Francis said as much on March 27, sharing with us that God always forgives and joyously welcomes back everyone who returns to him, even after a life of mistakes and sin.
“God does not know how to forgive without celebrating! And the father celebrates because of the joy he has because his son has returned,” the pope said before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Reflecting on the prodigal son, we read the younger son returns home after having squandered all his possessions. The words he speaks, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son” (Lk 15:21), demonstrate a humility that is a challenge for many in today’s me-first society.
But just as powerful is the compassion his father shows for a child who certainly disappointed him by his selfish actions, spending his inheritance on a life of sin. Yet, the father welcomes him home: “Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:23-24).
The parable offers a beautiful example of mercy.
If we look back on our lives, the prodigal son could have been any of us at a time when sin entered our life. It may have been a time when we hurt our parents, spouse, children or other loved ones—even our Creator—by cruel words or hurtful actions.
Did we take the time to reflect on our actions and see they were wrong? Did we seek forgiveness?
When it comes to our Creator and our sinfulness, “We are that son, and it is moving to think about how much the Father always loves us and waits for us,” Pope Francis said.
As Bishop Robert E. Barron shared in his Lenten reflection of this Gospel, “We are the children of God; we have been given life, being, everything by him; we exist through him at every moment. What is represented here so vividly is the moment of sin, which means rupture or division.”
The parable can also serve as a reminder that the sacrament of reconciliation is always available to us, especially during the Lenten season, when the opportunities for confession abound. Look on page 15 of this week’s issue of The Criterion to see our full list.
We believe Lent is an opportune time to work on fractured relationships. Our faith teaches us to “look for those who are far away,” have an open heart, truly listen and never make them feel uncomfortable, the pope added.
The father “celebrates because of the joy he has because his son has returned,” and, like the father, “we need to rejoice,” too, when someone repents, no matter how serious their mistakes may have been, the Holy Father noted.
We, too, have made mistakes. We have sinned against others. In turn, some have done wrong and sinned against us.
But our faith reminds us, as we read in one of the greatest parables ever told, that we are children of an all-loving God, who always welcomes us home when we are truly repentant of our sins.
As disciples of Jesus, may we be people of mercy who open our minds and hearts to forgive others, remembering that God forgives us.