Skip to content

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

by Bea McMahon, RSHMCategory: Updates

The Grace of Mercy

open bible, cross wrapped with purple ribbon, crown of thorns

Today’s gospel tells the iconic story of mercy as it was told by Jesus and expressed in religion, art, and literature throughout the Christian era – the healing love of a father for both of his sons.

In the words of James Keenan, SJ, mercy is ‘willingness to enter the chaos of another.’ How does it play out in the story of the prodigal son?

Consider the chaos of the younger brother. It surely began with excitement about freedom and adventure and the lure of worldly pleasures. Over time that was replaced by disillusion and ended in shame.

The chaos of the older brother shows up later. For years he is the devoted son, the sole recipient of his father’s constant paternal affection and guidance. But turbulence and anger enter in when he sees his father’s generous welcome of the son who had abandoned the household.

How well the father sees the chaos in each of his sons! They differ in their angst and their needs, but he knows how to embrace and comfort each. The unwashed and ragged condition of the younger son does not prevent a warm hug and a plan for a great party. And the jealous anger of the older son is met with a loving appeal to his long faithfulness.

The joy of this gospel story is its vivid depiction of God’s reach into the chaos of each one of us. At times we may be like the younger brother, at times the older one, and at times in chaos uniquely our own. God’s mercy always finds a way in.  That same mercy, reaching outward, can be our entry into the chaos of others and thus into the heart of God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *