An excerpt from The Church of Mercy, the first Vatican-authorised book detailing the vision of Pope Francis for the Church, containing speeches, homilies, and papers presented during the first year of his Papacy.
- By Pope Francis
I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope.
Think of that younger son who was in the father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance. He goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the father.
Yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the father’s house and he goes back. And the father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar; he was waiting for him every hour of every day.
The son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The father, with patience, love, hope, and mercy had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: his son has returned!
And that is the joy of the father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired.
Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope—always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (see Glaubenserkenntnis [Würzburg, 1949], p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God; it is a dialogue that, if we have it, will grant us hope.
I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet and in his side. We too can enter the wounds of Jesus; we can actually touch him. This happens every time we receive the sacraments with faith.
Read full reflection: Pope Francis’s Message of Mercy (ignatianspirituality.com)