Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful during the Angelus prayer from his window at his summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Today the liturgy re-proposes for our meditation the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, one of the high points and one of the most moving of all pages of sacred Scripture. It is beautiful to think that wherever in the whole world the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, there resounds on this day this good news of truth and of salvation: God is merciful love. The evangelist Luke has gathered together three parables of divine mercy in this chapter. The two shorter ones that are also found in Matthew and Mark are those of the lost sheep and the lost coin; the third one -- long, detailed and unique to Luke’s Gospel -- is the celebrated parable of the merciful Father, typically referred to as the "parable of the prodigal son."
In this page of the Gospel it seems as though we can almost hear the voice of Jesus, who reveals the countenance of his Father and our Father. At bottom, this is what he came into the world for: To speak to us of the Father; to make him known to us, lost children, and to reawaken in our hearts the joy of belonging to him, the hope of being forgiven and restored to our full dignity, the desire to live in his house forever, the house that is also our house.
Jesus recounted the three parables of mercy because the Pharisees and the scribes spoke ill of him, seeing that he allowed sinners to draw near to him and he even ate with them (cf. Luke 15:1-3). Thus, he explained, with his usual language, that God does not want even one of his children to be lost and his soul overflows with joy when a sinner converts. True religion therefore consists in being in tune with this heart "rich in mercy," which asks us to love everyone, even those who are distant and those who are our enemies, imitating the heavenly Father who respects everyone’s freedom and draws all to himself with the invincible force of his fidelity. This is the road that Jesus shows to those who want to be his disciples: "Do not judge … do not condemn … forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you … be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful" (Luke 6:36-38). In these parables we find very concrete indications for our daily conduct as believers.