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Fr Tolentino Mendoça preaches to the Roman Curia Fr Tolentino Mendoça preaches to the Roman Curia  (ANSA)

Spiritual Exercises: the prodigal son

The story of the prodigal son is not a parable but a mirror. This was the theme of Fr José Tolentino Mendoça’s meditation for the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia on Thursday morning.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

We have all heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times. We know the story well—a man has two sons and the younger asks his father for his part of the inheritance….

The parable of the prodigal son is our story


This parable is about each one of us, Fr Tolentino says. “Within us are feelings that are suffocated, things that need to be clarified, pathologies, countless threads that need to be connected.” In other words, there are many aspects of our lives that need reconciliation. The gift that Jesus wants to give us is his word. In that word, conflicts and fear are transformed. “Only mercy, that excessive love that God teaches us, is able to redeem us,” Fr Tolentino says.

Mercy is not deserved


The behavior of the older son helps us understand God’s mercy even more. Mercy has nothing to do with giving to someone what they deserve. Rather, Fr Tolentino explains, “Mercy is offering to another precisely what they do not deserve.” It is difficult to define mercy precisely because “mercy does not encase itself in one definition.” Mercy can be understood only if we allow it to “incarnate itself " within us "so that we might touch it.”

Mercy is excessive love


Concluding his reflections, Fr Tolentino expresses the fact that mercy is always excessive. The moderate person, the person who wants to play it safe, will never understand the Gospel of Mercy. This is because, “The Gospel of Mercy requires that our love be excessive” like the Father’s in the parable who understands everything without saying much. The Father shows us that mercy is gratuitous, it is the art of healing and rebuilding, the experience of forgiveness, the completely unexpected expression of tenderness. In the end, it is an excessive gift.

22 February 2018, 10:48