But that doesn't prevent me from saying enthusiastically that there's much I love about the Roman Christian who heads the Church at Rome, Pope Francis 1.
As part of a series of teachings on mercy, Francis yesterday delivered a homily about Luke 15:11-32. In those verses, Jesus' parable of the prodigal son is recounted.
In the parable, Jesus tells the story of a father and his two sons. The younger son, contrary to the customs in first century Judea where Jesus and His first hearers lived, receives one half of his father's estate, even before his father's death, then proceeds to squander it in often sinful ways.
Destitute and regretful, the younger son decides to return home and ask that his father hire him on as a servant, no longer feeling worthy to be a child of his generous father.
But before the young man is able to speak a word of remorse, his father has run to him with a welcoming embrace and ordered a celebration to begin.
In the last part of the parable though, we learn that the older son is less than happy about his brother's return and his father's forgiveness of the son.
The parable portrays how it is when we turn from God our Father and misuse the life that is the free gift of God. But it also shows how it is when, repentant and struck by the grace and generosity of God, we are able to return to Him through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus.
Some of what Francis said about the passage is recounted in this article:
Our state as sons of God “is a fruit of love from the heart of the father,” the Pope said, adding that “it doesn’t depend on our merits or our actions, and therefore no one can take it away. No one can take this dignity away from us, not even the devil! No one can take this dignity!”...Knowing that God loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him that frees us to live a life of purpose, love, and hope can imbue every life with dignity.
Jesus, the Pope observed, doesn’t describe a father that is “offended and resentful who says ‘I will make you pay!’” but on the contrary, illustrates that the only thing the father is concerned about is that “this son in front of him is healthy and safe.”
This parable teaches us “to never despair,” he said, and pointed specifically to parents who, like the father, see their children becoming distant and taking “dangerous paths.”
He also noted that the same can be said of pastors and catechists “who at times ask themselves if their work is in vain,” as well as prisoners, “those who have made poor choices and aren’t able to look to the future (and) those who hunger for mercy and forgiveness but believe they aren’t worthy.”
No matter what situation life brings, “I must never forget that I’ll never cease being a child of God, of a father who loves me and waits for my return. Even in the worst situations in life God waits, wanting to embrace me,” he said.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]