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In forgiveness we see the true heart of God

Benedict XVI is explaining how Jesus reveals God as a Father of mercy, who continues to love and pursue us even when we rebel or relate to him immaturely.

The Pope stated this today in a public address before he prayed the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Speaking about today’s Gospel reading about the parable of the prodigal son, the Pontiff noted,

“What would our culture, art, and more generally, our civilization be without this revelation of a God who is a Father full of mercy?”

“This evangelical text has the power to speak to us of God, to make us know his face, better yet, his heart,” he said.

“After Jesus has told us about the merciful Father, things are not as they were before,” Benedict XVI pointed out. “Now we know God: He is our Father, who out of love created us free and endowed with conscience, who suffers when we are lost and celebrates when we return.”

“God does not dispense with his fidelity and, even if we distance ourselves from him and are lost, he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our mistakes and speaking within us to our conscience to recall us to himself,” the Pope affirmed.

He highlighted the “opposite ways” in which the two sons of the parable behave toward their father, representing “two immature ways to relate to God: rebellion and infantile obedience.”

Both of these ways of behaving “are overcome by the experience of mercy,” the Pontiff stated.

He explained, “Only through experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves as loved by a gratuitous love — that is greater than our misery, but also greater than our justice — we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.”

The Holy Father concluded by inviting his listeners: “Let us see ourselves in the two sons, and above all let us contemplate the heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and let ourselves be regenerated by his merciful love.”

Full Text

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent the Gospel about the father and the two sons is proclaimed; this parable is better known as that of the “prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32). This passage from St. Luke constitutes a meeting point of the spirituality and the literature of all time.

In fact, what would our culture, art, and more generally, our civilization be without this revelation of a God who is a Father full of mercy? It does not cease to move us and every time that we hear it or read it is always able to suggest new meanings to us. Above all, this evangelical text has the power to speak to us of God, to make us know his face, better yet, his heart. After Jesus has told us about the merciful Father, things are not as they were before. Now we know God: he is our Father, who out of love created us free and endowed with conscience, who suffers when we are lost and celebrates when we return. Because of this, the relationship with him is built through a story that is analogous to what happens to every child with their parents: At the beginning the child depends on them; then he asserts his own autonomy; and in the end — if there is a positive development — he arrives at a mature relationship based on reconciliation and authentic love.

In these stages we can also read moments of man’s journey in his relationship with God. There can be a phase that is like childhood: a religion moved by need, by dependency. Little by little as man grows and emancipates himself, he wants to liberate himself from this submission and become free, adult, able to rule himself and make his own decisions in an autonomous way, thinking he can do without God. Fortunately, God does not dispense with his fidelity and, even if we distance ourselves from him and are lost, he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our mistakes and speaking within us to our conscience to recall us to himself. In the parable, the two sons behave in opposite ways: The younger one leaves and falls further and further, while the other one remains at home, but he too has an immature relationship with the Father; in fact, when the younger brother returns, the older one is not happy like the Father, but becomes angry and does not want to enter the house. The two sons represent two immature ways to relate to God: rebellion and infantile obedience.

Both of these [immature ways of relating to God] are overcome by the experience of mercy. Only through experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves as loved by a gratuitous love — that is greater than our misery, but also greater than our justice — we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.

Dear Friends, let us meditate on this parable. Let us see ourselves in the two sons, and above all let us contemplate the heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and let ourselves be regenerated by his merciful love. May we aided in this by the Virgin Mary, “Mater misericordiae.”

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today’s Gospel presents the touching parable of the prodigal son. Jesus invites us to trust in the Father’s infinite mercy and to return to him with hearts purified by repentance. Through our Lenten observance and reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, may we grow in sorrow for our sins and discover anew the Father’s loving embrace. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2010 (Zenit.org)