DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     September 10-12, 1999     vol. 10, no. 172

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Papal General Audience in St. Peter's Square

        VATICAN CITY, SEP 8 (ZENIT).- Speaking to over 13,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father again took up the theme of repentance, today discussing the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Confession. "God's willingness to pardon does not reduce people's responsibility and the need for a personal commitment to conversion," John Paul II stressed.

        Today's reflection centered on the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, which the Pope suggested should be renamed the parable of the Father of Mercies. This parable shows the face of God, the Father of Mercies, in moving terms. Pure legality is overcome by generous and gratuitous fatherly love, which surpasses human justice. "The gift does not consist only in receiving the lost son under the parental roof, but also in accepting him in a recreated communion, bringing him from death to life," the Holy Father explained. "For this reason, it was necessary to feast and rejoice."

        "The Father of Mercies who embraces the prodigal son," the Pope went on, "is the definitive icon of God revealed by Christ. He is first and foremost Father. God the Father, who extends his arms that bless and has mercy, always waiting, never forcing his children in anything. His hands sustain, stretch out, give life, and at the same time comfort, console, caress. They are hands of a father and a mother at the same time. The Father of Mercies contains and transcends all the characteristics of fatherhood and motherhood."

        The Holy Father went on to explain: "Throwing his arms about the shoulders of the son shows the characteristics of a mother who caresses her child and surrounds him with her warmth. In the light of this revelation of the face and the heart of God the Father, we understand the word of Jesus, which defies human logic: 'There will be more joy in heaven for a sinner who converts than for ninety-nine just persons who do not need conversion.' "

        "The invitation to the banquet that the father directs to the older son implies the heavenly Father's exhortation to the members of the human family so that they too will be merciful," the Pope concluded. "The experience of the fatherhood of God implies the acceptance of brotherhood, precisely because God is the Father of all, even of the son who errs." ZE99090808

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September 10-12, 1999       volume 10, no. 172


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