Pope Francis then pointed to the figure of the older brother, who although he was always at home with his father, "is so different" from him.
When he speaks to his father, the older son "speaks with contempt," never once using the words "father" or "brother," but instead boasts of how he had always been near the father and served him, the Pope observed.
Neither has this son ever lived the joy of being close to his father, but accuses him of not ever giving him a young goat to celebrate, Francis said, adding "Poor father! One son went away, and the other was never truly close!"
The father's suffering in this passage "is like the suffering of God and of Jesus when we distance ourselves or when we think we are close and instead we are not," he said.
Francis noted that the older son "also needs mercy," explaining that that he "represents us when we ask ourselves whether it's worth it to struggle so much if we don't get anything in return."
However, when the father responds telling his older son telling him that "everything I have is yours," his logic "is that of mercy!"
In their conversations with the father, both sons miss the point, Francis said: "the two brothers don't speak to each other, they live different stories, but both reason in a logic foreign to Jesus: if you do good you get a reward, if you do bad you get punished."
By responding with the logic of mercy, the father not only recovers his lost son but can now restore the relationship between the brothers, the Pope said, adding that "the greatest joy for the father is to see his sons recognizing each other as brothers."
Each of the sons can decide to either unite themselves to the joy of the father, or to refuse, he said, and noted how parable ends leaving us in suspense, because we don't know what the older son decided.
Pope Francis closed by saying that this cliffhanger is "is a motivation for us. This Gospel teaches us that we all need to enter the house of the father and participate in his joy, in the feast of mercy and brotherhood."