4th Sunday of Lent (C)

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Papal Homilies

Pope Francis

March 13, 2013 – Present

December 3, 2021 | Unscripted Anecdote

An Image of the Father Who Always Forgives

Prodigal son:  “I’m afraid that Dad will close the door in my face, and kick me out”

When I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son: the elder brother was a strict judge, but the father was merciful, the image of the Father who always forgives, in fact, who is always waiting to forgive!

Last year a group of young people who perform pop music shows wanted to put on the parable of the prodigal son, sung in pop music and the dialogues were… beautiful! But the most beautiful thing is the final discussion, when the prodigal son goes to a friend and says: “I can’t go on like this. I want to go home, but I’m afraid that Dad will close the door in my face, and kick me out. I’m so afraid and I don’t know what to do.” – “But your dad is good!” – “Yeah, but you know…my brother’s there, making him resentful.” Toward the end of that pop opera about the prodigal son, the friend says to him, “Do one thing: write to your dad and tell him that you want to come back but you’re afraid he won’t welcome you back. Tell your dad that if he wants to welcome you well, he should put a handkerchief on the highest window in the house, so that your father can tell you beforehand whether he will welcome you well or throw you out.” That act closes.

In the other act, the son is on his way to his father’s house. And when he’s on his way, he turns around, and you see his father’s house: it was full of white handkerchiefs! Full! This is God for us. This is God for us. He doesn’t get tired of forgiving. And when the son begins to speak, “Ah, sir, I have done…” – “Hush,” he shuts his mouth.

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

homilies

May 11, 2016 | GENERAL AUDIENCE

The Merciful Father

Jesus’ words encourage us never to despair

What tenderness! He sees him at a distance: what does this mean? That the father had constantly gone to the balcony to look at the road to see if his son would return; that son who had misbehaved in many ways found the father there waiting for him. How beautiful is the father’s tenderness! The father’s mercy is overflowing, unconditional, and shows itself even before the son speaks. Certainly, the son knows he erred and acknowledges it: “I have sinned… treat me as one of your hired servants” (vv. 18-19). These words crumble before the father’s forgiveness. The embrace and the kiss of his father makes him understand that he was always considered a son, in spite of everything. This teaching of Jesus is very important: our condition as children of God is the fruit of the love of the Father’s heart; it does not depend on our merits or on our actions, and thus no one can take it away, not even the devil! No one can take this dignity away.

Jesus’ words encourage us never to despair. I think of the worried moms and dads watching their children move away, taking dangerous paths. I think of the parish priests and catechists who wonder at times if their work is in vain. But I also think of the person in prison, who feels his life is over. I think of those who have made mistakes and cannot manage to envision the future, of those who hunger for mercy and forgiveness and believe they don’t deserve it…. In any situation of life, I must not forget that I will never cease to be a child of God, to be a son of the Father who loves me and awaits my return. Even in the worst situation of life, God waits for me, God wants to embrace me, God expects me.

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

RELATED: Pope Francis on the Parable of the Merciful Father (Excerpt from The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis)

homilies

March 6, 2016 | Angelus

The Third Son

The extension of the arms and heart of the Father

In this parable, you can also glimpse a third son. A third son? Where? He’s hidden! And it is the one, ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). This Servant-Son is Jesus! He is ‘the extension of the arms and heart of the Father: he welcomed the prodigal Son and washed his dirty feet; he prepared the banquet for the feast of forgiveness. He, Jesus, teaches us to be “merciful as the Father is merciful”.

The figure of the Father in the parable reveals the heart of God. He is the Merciful Father who, in Jesus, loves us beyond measure, always awaits our conversion every time we make mistakes; he awaits our return when we turn away from him thinking, we can do without him; he is always ready to open his arms no matter what happened. As the father of the Gospel, God also continues to consider us his children, even when we get lost, and comes to us with tenderness when we return to him. He addresses us so kindly when we believe we are right. The errors we commit, even if bad, do not wear out the fidelity of his love. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can always start out anew: He welcomes us, gives us the dignity of being his children and tells us: “Go ahead! Be at peace! Rise, go ahead!”

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

homilies

4th Sunday of Lent (C)

Pope Benedict XVI

April 19, 2005 – February 28, 2013

MARCH 14, 2010 | Angelus

Our Relationship with God, Our Father

Let us compare ourselves to the two sons

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the father and the two sons better known as the Parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Lk 15:11-32) is proclaimed. This passage of St Luke constitutes one of the peaks of spirituality and literature of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of a God the Father so full of mercy? It never fails to move us and every time we hear or read it, it can suggest to us ever new meanings. Above all, this Gospel text has the power of speaking to us of God, of enabling us to know his Face and, better still, his Heart. After Jesus has told us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were before. We now know God; he is our Father who out of love created us to be free and endowed us with a conscience, who suffers when we get lost and rejoices when we return. For this reason, our relationship with him is built up through events, just as it happens for every child with his parents: at first he depends on them, then he asserts his autonomy; and, in the end if he develops well he reaches a mature relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

MARCH 18, 2007 | Angelus

Laetare Sunday

Conversion overcomes the root of evil, which is sin, even if it cannot always avoid its consequences.

I have just returned from Casal del Marmo, the reformatory for minors in Rome, where I went to visit on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, in Latin called Laetare Sunday, that is, “Rejoice”, from the first word of the entrance antiphon in the liturgy of Mass.

The liturgy today invites us to rejoice because Easter, the day of Christ’s victory over sin and death, is approaching. But where is the source of Christian joy to be found if not in the Eucharist, which Christ left us as spiritual Food while we are pilgrims on this earth?

The Eucharist nurtures in believers of every epoch that deep joy which makes us one with love and peace and originates from communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
homilies

4th Sunday of Lent (C)

Pope Saint John Paul II

October 16, 1978 – April 2, 2005

SEPTEMBER 8, 1999 | GENERAL AUDIENCE

The Definitive Icon of God

The merciful Father who embraces the prodigal son is the definitive icon of God revealed by Christ.

First and foremost he is Father. It is God the Father who extends his arms in blessing and forgiveness, always waiting, never forcing any of his children. His hands support, clasp, give strength and, at the same time, comfort, console and caress. They are the hands of both a father and a mother.

The merciful father in the parable possesses and transcends all the traits of fatherhood and motherhood. In throwing himself on his son’s neck, he resembles a mother who caresses her son and surrounds him with her warmth. In the light of this revelation of the face and heart of God the Father, we can understand Jesus’ saying, so disconcerting to human logic:  “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (ibid., 15: 7). And:  “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (ibid., 15: 10).

The mystery of “home-coming” wonderfully expresses the encounter between the Father and humanity, between mercy and misery, in a circle of love that touches not only the son who was lost, but is extended to all.

The invitation to the banquet which the father extends to the elder son implies the heavenly Father’s exhortation to all the members of the human family to be merciful as well.

The experience of God’s fatherhood implies the acceptance of “brotherhood”, precisely because God is the Father of all, even of our erring brother.

In recounting this parable, Jesus does not only speak of the Father but also lets us glimpse his own sentiments. To the Pharisees and the scribes who accused him of receiving sinners and eating with them (cf. ibid., 15: 2), he shows his preference for the sinners and tax collectors who were approaching him with trust (cf. ibid., 15: 1), and thus reveals that he has been sent to manifest the Father’s mercy. This is the mercy that shines brightly especially on Golgotha, in the sacrifice offered by Christ for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mt 26: 28).

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
NOVEMBER 30, 1980 | DIVES IN MISERICORDIA

On the Presence of Mercy in the Human World

The common experience of that good which is man

What took place in the relationship between the father and the son in Christ’s parable is not to be evaluated “from the outside.” Our prejudices about mercy are mostly the result of appraising them only from the outside. At times it happens that by following this method of evaluation we see in mercy above all a relationship of inequality between the one offering it and the one receiving it. And, in consequence, we are quick to deduce that mercy belittles the receiver, that it offends the dignity of man. The parable of the prodigal son shows that the reality is different: the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of the dignity that is proper to him. This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth (this vision in truth is a genuine form of humility); on the other hand, for this very reason he becomes a particular good for his father: the father sees so clearly the good which has been achieved thanks to a mysterious radiation of truth and love, that he seems to forget all the evil which the son had committed.

The parable of the prodigal son expresses in a simple but profound way the reality of conversion. Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and of the presence of mercy in the human world. The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man. Understood in this way, mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of His mission. His disciples and followers understood and practiced mercy in the same way. Mercy never ceased to reveal itself, in their hearts and in their actions, as an especially creative proof of the love which does not allow itself to be “conquered by evil,” but overcomes “evil with good.”69 The genuine face of mercy has to be ever revealed anew. In spite of many prejudices, mercy seems particularly necessary for our times.

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SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

RELATED: The Parable of the Prodigal Son in The Legacy of John Paul II: The Central Teachings of His 14 Encyclical Letters, by Alan Schreck (2012)

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