Forgiveness

There is a reason that Sunday’s Gospel reading is the most well-known parable of the Gospel. The Prodigal Son is such a poignant and inspiring story which resonates with us all and no more so than at present. A painting of the story by Rembrandt sits in the foyer of the St Mary’s College Administration building for all to see. The story and painting focus on a forgiving father, who lovingly welcomes his son back after squandering half the family’s wealth on an undesirable life. The son returns to his father’s forgiving embrace with sandals placed on his feet to represent that he will not return as a slave; a robe draped over him to represent that he will be treated like a king; a feast with fattened lamb and a party to celebrate his return; and a ring placed on his finger representing equality, and that all the wealth that is left in the family will be shared equally with him again. The father’s forgiveness is beyond any forgiveness that a right-minded person in our culture would ever give. Amazingly, no punishment, no need for an explanation – just pure unadulterated forgiveness, further generosity and love by the father. You can see why the other son, who was always good and loyal, just couldn’t comprehend and accept the father’s actions. If the writer of Luke (15: 11-32) wanted us to see our God through the story of the father, we are certainly in a lucky, awesome position.

How timely that we reflect on the parable of The Prodigal Son after a startling and difficult week for the Catholic Church at the Royal Commission into sexual abuse. This story reminds us of those innocent young people who lives were ruined by sexual abuse and their need for the loving embrace of the Father. The Catholic Church needs to plead mercy like the returning son and then be offered forgiveness and a new beginning, with the strong assurance that it won’t happen again. How amazing is the timing of this Gospel reading to challenge, inspire and press us to live it out!
 

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