While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
Today we see two figures of mercy. The first, the figure of Boaz in the Book of Ruth. Who takes notice of her as she works gleaning the field. The second, the figure of the father in the parable who has pity for his wayward son who comes back after wasting his inheritance on a “life of dissipation”.
We also see the opposites of virtue and vice played out in the figures of Ruth, who models fidelity, patience, and diligence in our first reading. And in contrast with the younger son in the gospel, who models wastefulness, disrespect for his father, and selfishness. It is easy to desire to choose to follow Ruth’s example, so stark a contrast they are.
But there is one more figure, that is more subtle. The older son in the parable. He is the one who exteriorly did all the right things. He never disobeyed his father and worked diligently (coming in from the fields he heard there was a party going on). But he lacks in an important quality of a human person: compassion. He also demonstrates that although he was faithful all these years, it had been only an act of duty; not out of love for his father. He is quick to judge his brother, and paints an unsavory picture of him.
When we imagine ourselves before God – a day will come when we will see Him face-to-face – what image do we have? Merciful? Stern? Fearful? Loving? We find in the parable a vision of hope, a Father who waits for our return, ready to run to us and embrace us despite our unworthiness. Can we accept His mercy? Can we humbly let the Father embrace us, and lead us into His home? To celebrate with Him. To celebrate his overwhelming love for us?
May God bless you.