This Sunday, we have what is undoubtedly one of the best known stories from the Bible, one that even non-Christians would often cite: the story of The Prodigal Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a commentary on this popular parable which tells of the fascination and pitfalls of illusory freedom. The Catechism suggests that really, the centre of the parable is the merciful Father (rather than the title character) which is interesting because when the priest gives absolution to the penitent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he begins with the words, “God, the Father of mercies …”
When we approach the sacrament of Reconciliation, we come as prodigal sons and daughters, returning home to the welcoming arms of a merciful Father. In the parable, God’s readiness and desire to forgive our sins is beautifully expressed by the father seeing his son while he is still a long way away and then running to meet him. This would have been considered quite undignified for an elderly Jewish man but our Heavenly Father is not concerned with his dignity. Rather, he wants to restore our dignity. So when we go to confession – as we are strongly encouraged to do during Lent – we must have this picture in our head: of the Father running towards us, eager to welcome us back home.