March 2016

As we move through the season of Lent, we are reminded of God’s gift of mercy. The parable of the father and his two sons (Lk15:11-32) illustrates God’s desire and readiness to be merciful and forgiving. While the younger son had wasted the money given him by his father, nevertheless his father welcomed him back wholeheartedly. This he illustrated by the party laid on for him. On the other hand, his elder brother had a lot of difficulty understanding why a lavish party was being given for the one who had walked away and squandered his money. The father did not speak words of forgiveness to his son; his actions spoke more loudly and clearly. In this parable, Jesus gives a picture of what God is like. God does not give up on us when we stray down our various ‘roads’. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life experienced by anyone who returns to God. This son, having gone away, learned a lot about himself. He realized that, despite his wayward life, his father still loved him – a love which he had not returned.

The father who had been hurt was forgiving.  But the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving. God does not give up on us when we stray. God rejoices in finding the lost and in leading them home. "Lord, may I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful." This story illustrates (a) the father’s readiness to welcome home the repentant younger son and (b) the older son’s struggle to accept what he considers to be his father’ lavish welcome for his brother, who had squandered everything he got. Jesus takes us beyond the human level to an awareness of God’s love and mercy, which extends to anyone who acknowledges their wrongdoing and sets out to amend his or her life. The father who had been on the lookout for his younger son’s return, was ready to throw a party to welcome him home. Here Jesus illustrates God’s readiness to forgive when we choose to amend our ways and recognise God’s gift of mercy that is always available to us. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life experienced by those who find their way back to God. We notice the older son’s expression: "this son of yours” which is a way of distancing himself from his brother. He is unable to see the situation from his father’s perspective. There may be times when we too fail to see things from another’s perspective.

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