The parable of “The Prodigal Son” shows us God’s mercy and forgiveness. God’s merciful love and forgiveness are totally unconditional. No matter what kind of person I may be, no matter what I have done against God, against others, or against myself, God’s merciful love for me is absolutely unchanging.
In this parable, we are given a most beautiful description of our Heavenly Father. The father was outside of the house waiting for the younger son to return. When the younger son realized and became aware of his own sinfulness, he was ready to come back to his compassionate and merciful father. When the loving father saw his lost son return, the father ran to his son, embraced him in his arms, kissed him tenderly, brought him to his heavenly home, and threw a party for him. Like the younger son, when we feel we are far away from God by our own sinfulness, we have to come back with repentance, humility, and love. The merciful Father, who is waiting for us, throws a party for us, too.
Let me share with you a small story: One day a missionary was sitting at the seaside of the beach. A woman came, carrying a handful of wet sand. She asked the missionary, “Do you know what this is?” The missionary said, “It looks like sand.” “Do you know why I brought it here?” she asked. “The missionary answered, “No. I cannot imagine.” “The woman explained, “Well, these are my sins. My sins are as countless as the sand of the sea. How can I ever obtain forgiveness for all of these?” The missionary said, “You gather the sand from the beach. Well, take it back there, and pile this sand at the edge of the water.
Then wait and watch the tide come in and slowly wash it away altogether.” God’s forgiveness works like this. Our sins are like so many grains of sand in the ocean of God’s mercy. God always forgives our sins. It is very comforting to know that God does keep forgiving us! That all we have to do is trust in God and God will keep washing our sins away with His merciful love and compassionate heart!
During the canonization of St. Mother Teresa, Pope Francis said, “St. Mother Teresa is “an Icon of Mercy.” Following her teaching and example, we can receive mercy and practice mercy, especially toward those closest to us. Mother reminded us often, “Love begins at home. There are many people, who need our tender and merciful love.” The Pope continued by saying, “Mother was always ready to show mercy and forgiveness to others” and that we need “lots of love to forgive, and we need lots of humility to forget because it is not complete forgiveness unless we forget.”
The most beautiful and touching part of the parable is what the father says to the angry, elder son: “All I have is yours.” Our Heavenly Father is saying to each of us, “All I have is yours.” This is a most beautiful promise and stunning invitation. Now, we have a choice to make, whether to stay outside or to go in and enjoy the Father’s party. But, the best offer of happiness in our lives from God is: “All I have is yours.” The lesson for us from this beautiful parable is clearly a lesson of hope and confidence in the infinite mercy of God. We are sinners and we will never be lost if we decide to repent and trust in God’s mercy! God is love and God is grace!
Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Dublin, Ireland, said, “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive,”. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships, and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” Forgiveness, of course, is much more than a feeling. It is a series of small, often painful acts that culminate in a conversion of hearts that creates the very possibility of peace. Queen Elizabeth II put forgiveness into action!”