What the Parable of the Prodigal Son tells us about God's Mercy

When I was in Year 5, my family moved to a new house. My two sisters and I were extremely excited since we had been living in apartments for most of our childhood and it was the first time we would be living in a two-storey house. Like naive children that we were, we decided to play ball and ended up knocking down our dad’s photo frame of his family in the Philippines. The three of us stood paralysed with fear. My little sister and I started panic, suggesting we should hide and run away. But our older sister through fearful tears set us straight “No, we have to tell dad the truth.” So led by our older sister, the three of us approached our dad and told him the truth, while sobbing hysterically. Our dad looked at us smiling and said, “Oh, that’s okay, but are you alright?”

This was such a surprising reaction, since I was so used to him yelling and slapping my bottom. But then again, if I think about it, it was probably because at a young age I had the tendency of being naughty and trying to get away with it.

With that aside, the reason I am sharing this little anecdote is because that day I had learnt about God’s Merciful Love through my dad’s subtle example.

Some of you may have experienced a similar experience of such love from your own fathers, but maybe some of you have not. Whatever your experience may have been, we are never deprived from God’s own Mercy for you.

Of course, the best way we have been able to see this Mercy is through exemplary life of Jesus Christ while on earth. But I’d like to deepen your knowledge, understanding and trust in God’s abundant Mercy through the parable that Jesus shared with his disciples.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
(Luke 15: 11 – 27)

In this parable there are two stories about two different sons, but our attention will be on the youngest son, who is the main focus of this parable.

In summary, the son took part of his inheritance from the father and went away to use the money as he pleased. Once the son squandered all his saving, he hired himself out to work at a pig’s pen, where he was mistreated and was being starved to death. That’s when he realised how much he had taken for granted the goodness of his own father, who even took good care of his own servants. So the son set out to return to the father, with a repentant heart and the intention on becoming one of his father’s servants as an act of contrition. When the father saw the son walking back home from afar, he ran to him, embraced him and welcomed him back, celebrating his son’s return by dressing him with the best robe, slipping sandals on his feet, putting a ring on his finger and killing the fattened calf.

Through this parable, Jesus points out three very important aspects of Mercy:

The Father’s Love is UNCONDITIONAL

When the son asked for his part of the inheritance it was like wishing his father were dead. But even though the son did this, the father still welcomed his son as he returned back home. And not only did he allow his son to come back to his home, but when he actually saw his son coming back from afar, the father RAN towards the son, embraced and kissed him.

The son represents each one of us – God’s children – who have the tendency of squandering the gifts, strengths and talents that we have been blessed by God, and trying to claim our “independence”. The father represents God, our Father in Heaven, who although His own children keep committing sins, falling over and making mistakes… He still anticipates our returning every single time we turn away from Him. Just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God the Father pursues us: running towards us once He sees us returning back to Him, for Him to embrace us in the warmth of His Merciful Love.

The nature of the Father’s Mercy is RESTORATIVE

By squandering all that he had, the son ended up having to strip himself of his dignity in order to make a living. But once he returned to the father with the intention of becoming one of his servants, the father restored the son’s dignity. How? By dressing him in the best robes and placing a ring in his finger. You may be thinking that this is a very arbitrary remark, but we need to remember how much Jesus loved speaking in metaphors. The robes and the ring were symbols of this restoration that is taking place: the new robes as a symbol of honour for the son’s dignity, the ring as the symbol for call to return the return to duty and responsibility.

In this same way, when we have stripped our own selves from the dignity God has created us with, the Father draws us back to Himself through the sacraments: back to the divine childhood and back to our vocation to love.

To receive the Father’s Mercy we need to grow in HUMILITY

Although the Father desires so much to offer us His Mercy, restoration can never take place unless we ourselves are open to receive God’s Mercy!This is why this aspect of the parable was so crucial for Jesus to communicate: the humility acknowledging one’s sins and repenting. It is a humility that allows us to be vulnerable in our beauty and especially in our brokenness – one that allows for healing and transformation.

The father was only able to forgive the son and restore him to his former dignity because the son opened his own heart to repentance and humility: in acknowledging what he has done wrong and presenting himself as a servant to the father.

So please remember in your own healing journeys, first and foremost, that our God is a Heavenly Father who is abundant in Mercy, always in pursuit for our broken souls, not because it is rightfully His (although they are) but because He knows us, understands us and desires eternal love, joy and peace for us that only He can provide.

Remember, when you fall over and make any mistakes, that God is a forgiving Father who is ready to share His Loving Mercy with you, only if you would let Him love you as you are, in the beauty and brokenness you bare.

Lastly, remember, on our own we can do nothing: do not believe the lie of the evil one, who tries to convince us that you would only receive God’s love once you are completely perfect. NO. For in this world we will always face temptation and we will always face our weakness, but if we walk in the path of truth, where God forges our paths towards Heaven, we will be assured of restoration of our bodies and souls.

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