.- Presiding over the mid-day Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the day's Gospel that presents the parable of the prodigal son. He explained that “only experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves loved by a free love, greater than our misery, but also our justice, can we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.”
In his address before the Angelus on this fourth Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father asked, “What would our culture, art and, more generally, our civilization be without this revelation of a Father God, full of mercy? The parable never stops moving us and every time we hear it or read it, it is capable of suggesting new meanings to us.”
Benedict XVI stated that “this evangelical text has the power to speak to us about God, to show us his face, better yet, his heart. After Jesus spoke to us of the merciful Father, things are no longer as they were, now we know God. He is our Father that out of love made us free and endowed us with a conscience, (one) that suffers if we get lost and rejoices if we return.”
For this, continued the Pope, “the relation with Him is built through a history, similarly to what happens with each child and their parents: in the beginning he depends on them, later he claims his own autonomy and finally – if there is positive development – reaches a mature relationship, based on recognition and true love.
“In these stages we can also read moments of the path of man in his relationship with God,” the Pope taught.
“There can be a phase that is like childhood: a religion marked by necessity, dependence. Little by little man grows and emancipates himself, he wants to free himself of this submission and become liberated, adult, capable of regulating himself on his own and making his own choices autonomously, thinking even to be able to do so without God.”
The Holy Father later cautioned that “exactly this phase is delicate, and can lead to atheism, but it also often hides the need to discover the true face of God.”
“Fortunately,” he assured, “God never let's go of his loyalty, and although we distance ourselves and get lost, he continues with his love, forgiving our mistakes and speaking interiorly to our conscience to reclaim us for himself.”
In the parable, explained the Pope, “the two sons behave in opposite ways: the younger falls ever lower, while the older remains at home, but also he has an immature relationship with the Father, in fact, when the brother returns, the older of the two is not happy like the Father, instead he becomes angry and does not want to enter the house.”
“The two sons,” he said, “represent two immature ways of relating with God: rebellion and infantile obedience. Both forms are overcome through the experience of mercy. Only experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves loved by free love, greater than our misery, but also our justice, can we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.”
The Pope concluded by urging meditation on this parable by identifying ourselves in the sons, “and let's especially contemplate the heart of the Father. Let's throw ourselves into his arms and let ourselves be regenerated by his merciful love. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us in this.”