Today, Laetare (“Rejoice”) Sunday, IV of Lent, we again hear that fetching fragment of Luke's Gospel, where Jesus justifies his unprecedented practice of forgiving sins to regain men for God.
I always wondered if the expression “prodigal son”, which this parable is named after, is really understood by most people. I think we should rename it as the parable of the “Prodigious Father”.
Because the Father of the parable —so moved by the return of that son ruined by sin— is indeed an icon of our Heavenly Father reflected in the face of Christ: «He was still a long way off when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him» (Lk 15:20). Jesus makes us clearly feel that any man, even the worst sinner, is so very important to God that He does not want to loose him in any way; and that He, with ineffable joy, is always willing to grant us forgiveness (even to the point of not sparing his own Son's life).
This Sunday has an air of serene joy and, this is why it is mentioned as the “Rejoice” Sunday, initial words of the antiphony at the beginning of today's Mass: «Rejoice O Jerusalem, celebrate all who love it». God felt sorry for the man who was lost and stranded, and has shown in Jesus Christ —dead and resurrected— his mercy towards him.
In his encyclical Dives in misericordia, John Paul II said that, in a story bruised by sin, God's love has turned into mercy and compassion. Jesus' Passion is the measure of that misericorde. Thus, we may be able to understand that the greatest joy we can provide God with is, perhaps, to let him forgive us by exposing our misery, our sins, to his mercy. With Easter around the corner we gladly come to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, to the source of divine mercy: we shall give God a great joy, we shall remain full of peace and shall be more merciful to others. It is never too late to get up and go back to the Father that loves us!