By Jim Fair
“We continue to pray for all who are ill due to this pandemic”, Pope Francis said Saturday morning, March 14, in his homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta. And he made families his special intention for the day.
“Today, I would like to ask a special prayer for families: families who from one day to the next find themselves at home with their children because the schools are closed for security reasons and they need to manage a difficult situation and manage it well…with peace and joy as well,” the Holy Father said, as quoted in Vatican News. “And in a special way, I think of those families who may have a disabled person among them. The welcome centers for people with disability are closed…. So let’s pray for families, so that they don’t lose peace in this moment and that they might succeed in bringing the entire family forward with strength and joy.”
The Pope went on to reflect on the day’s Gospel, the parable of the prodigal son., noting the conflicting reactions of the returning son, the son who has stayed at home, and the father.
The Gospel says that the sinners drew near to Jesus to hear him. The sinners “surround Jesus in silence. They don’t know what to say”. But their presence, the Pope said, tells us that they wanted “to listen to Jesus”.
About the Pharisees, the Gospel says they complained and criticized Jesus for doing that. They want to take Jesus’ authority away. They accuse Jesus, “He eats with sinners. He’s impure”. The rest of the parable, the Pope said, explains this drama.
The first group “feel the need for salvation…for a guide, a pastor. And so the people draw near to Jesus because they see that he is a pastor”, Pope Francis explained. The doctors of the law, on the other hand, feel animosity toward them.
“The doctors feel self-sufficient. ‘I’ve gone to university. I’ve got a doctorate, I have two doctorates. I know very well what the law says. Actually, I know every single explanation of the law in detail…. They despise others…they despise sinners.”, the Pope explained.
The son in the parable feels the need to “eat the world, to get out of the house. Maybe he felt like he was in prison”, the Pope reflected. He has the “the audacity to ask his father to give him what he had coming to him”.
His father “doesn’t say anything because he’s a father… “A Father knows how to suffer in silence…waiting for the right moment”, Pope Francis noted. “The Father feels pain, tenderness and a lot of love”. At times, this behavior makes fathers look “foolish”. And when that right moment came, the Father was “waiting, he saw him at a distance”. This provokes the elder son to reprove his own father, “you were unjust”.
Pope Francis explained that the problem is not realizing what living in the Father’s house truly means. The elder son fulfilled his duties and his work, but he never entered into a relationship of love with his Father. Instead, he is indignant with his Father, and says, “This sinner arrived and you throw a party! And me?”. He doesn’t even go into the house.
The Father names the problem. “Son you are with me always. And all I have is yours”.
“This is what the elder son had never realized. He lived at home as if it were a hotel, without feeling his father’s paternal love…. It’s interesting that the father didn’t say one word about his sin when the younger son returned. He only embraces him and throws a feast,” Francis said. “ He had to explain this to the elder son because his heart was hardened because of his conceptions of his Father, about his sonship, and about how he should live.”
Pope Francis concluded with a prayer, asking the Lord that we might understand the problem:
“The problem is living in the house but not feeling ourselves at home because there’s no paternal or fraternal relationship, but only that of colleagues who work.”
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