Misericordes Sicut Pater was the theme I met at Rome in 2016 and it was used to conclude the then extra-ordinary Jubilee year of Mercy issued by his Holiness Pope Francis; its translation run “being merciful like your father”!
The above theme summarized perfectly well the liturgy of the word celebrated today: 4th Sunday of Lent, where we are called to be merciful as our heavenly Father is.
The story of the prodigal son in Lk15: 1-3, 11-32 which forms the Gospel of the day is to be effectively meditated upon. This parable speaks for itself. In it we have three characters: the sinful son, the merciful/ forgiving father & the unforgiving elder brother. Sometimes in our daily lives, we may notice the traces of the three characters in us; yet we are expected to imitate only one of them which has nothing negative in it: that of the merciful father. The prodigal son gave his father the highest shock of his life when he demanded for his own share of the property while his father was still alive. This is because in Jewish culture likewise in the African and some other cultures elsewhere, demanding for one’s inheritance in the presence of your father means wishing him death since the father is expected to do this at the end of his life by leaving a written will or directly sharing his properties among his children. The Jews have great value to their fathers (and parents in general) and always like to be present at their burial ceremony. In Lk 9:59 & in Matt 8:21 a particular young man asked Jesus to allow him to go and bury his father before coming back to follow him, that was a typical Jewish man. It’s the responsibility of the children to give a befitting burial to their parents before sharing what belongs to them and in this sense we can understand the pain the father underwent at his son’s demand of his own share.
His father being an elder had noticed & foreseen the end of his son, nevertheless he allowed him the liberty to follow his own design. And this is how God treats us whenever we despise & reject Him just to follow our own selfish and ungodly ways. He allows us to make our funny or silly experience since his gift of freedom of the will can’t be tampered with.
So the younger son is as example of the one who has erred terribly but one important and positive lesson about him was his readiness to go back to his father : “How many of my father’s hired men has enough to eat… I will go back and I will say to Him…” (Lk 15:17f). So brethren let’s always make the same decision of going back to the father (God) for reconciliation whenever we aren’t at right with Him, for we are sinners from birth and in sin we were conceived (PS 51:7)
What about the character of the father? Extravagantly merciful, the father was eager to welcome his lost but found child, death but came back alive Lk 15:24. He didn’t want his son to read all his prepared discussion for forgiveness rather he looks at his repented heart & he didn’t wait for him to reach the house but “still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with compassion” Lk 15:20. Our God is always ready to welcome us whenever we turn away from our sins.
What about his son? He is so unforgiven and he represented the Pharisees who parade themselves to be righteous and despised others. This last is often our attitude towards those we tagged to be sinners, we accuse them more than their sins do: “Then when this son of yours came back after squandering your wealth with prostitutes…” (LK 15:30), his elder son made mention of prostitutes which initially wasn’t mentioned and this is our attitudes towards the faults of others while accusing them.
Finally brethren let us be merciful to others as God is to us (Matt 6:12). Let us come back to God in the sacrament of reconciliation whenever we err and let us avoid killing others because of their faults since God with his outstretched arms is always ready to welcome them. Misericordes Sicut Pater! May God bless you abundantly and always! Amen! Rev Fr
Kingsley Chimaobi Anih, CFIC!
Happy Sunday to you all. Greetings from Rome, Italy.