Fourth Sunday of Lent
by Fr. Ivan Olmo
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Pope Francis graciously shared the loving gift and holy inspiration the Lord shared with him to celebrate a Year of Mercy and remind the world to be “Merciful like the Father.” To be merciful like the Father is to move beyond ourselves, our needs, our selfish desires and place another’s needs before ours. To be merciful like the Father is to have a deep sense of love for another especially in their time of need and moment of despair even if that person does not like you. To be merciful like the Father is to have a profound desire for compassion towards another person and simply forgive him or her even if they refuse to forgive you. To be merciful like the Father is to be moved with pity for those who are lost, forgotten, impoverished, alone and have nowhere else to go. To be merciful like the Father is to love as God loves: unconditionally, sacrificially, selflessly and always for the other. In the Year of Mercy, the Holy Father inspired us to continue to consider what it means to be merciful like God the Father. One way is to pray from the heart with the parable of the Prodigal Son which gives us a great image of God’s mercy. We often make the story about the younger brother or the older brother. But for a moment, consider the way the father in the story reacts and responds to his sons and to the situations put before him. First, consider the request for money. The son basically assumes the right to an inheritance and makes the request before the father is deceased. How would you respond to such a request from one of your children or family members? The father simply receives the request and responds without judgment or condition. Secondly, consider your reaction when your child returns after taking your life savings and squandering it. How would you respond? The father is not concerned about the money. He simply rejoices that his child is back home safe and saved. Lastly, consider the response of the other son. How would you respond to a child who seeks to divide your household? The father does not play one against the other. Rather, he reassures his children that he simply loves them both. The parable of the Prodigal Son is about mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, love. It is about being united to God and to each other. That happens through God’s mercy and sharing his forgiveness.