The Return of the Prodigal Son (1633-1635), Rembrandt

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1633-1635), Rembrandt


Last Sunday we heard once again the well-known parable of the Lost Son, or the Merciful Father. It struck me that the Father demonstrates, by his actions, the greatness of his love for the younger son. Any words spoken here are spoken to the servants… ‘Bring the best robe… kill the calf we have been fattening…’. Perhaps he knows that this son needs the assurance of actions? The son experiences the embrace and tender kisses of his Father and enjoys the feast thrown to celebrate his return from death to life.

In contrast in his dealings with the elder son we see the Father addressing words to his son ‘My Son you are with me always…’

In accompanying people in the RCIA we see the power of both words and actions. In the sacramental life of the Church we see the power of these signs and instruments of God’s grace at works in our lives. Those of us who are catechists know well the power of the Word of God that we share in our catechesis. As we apprentice others we also know the power of our actions, our witness, accompanying people to liturgies- helping them find the right place in the Missal!- involving them in works of service. So we see it is both words and actions working together that is fruitful.

Perhaps many of us have a tendency to lean more towards either words or actions- whereas in the sacraments we see a beautiful marriage between the two. Each of us are both Mary and Martha, contemplatives and missionary disciples. As we journey towards Easter perhaps, like the Father in the parable, we can ask ourselves how we can best speak of and demonstrate the love of God to others. In doing this we need to know those we accompany and what they most need. The Father knew his sons had different needs, and responded accordingly.

In the Gospels Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ like the Master we too can be ready with that questions and respond with both our words and actions to the needs we discover and so model the Father’s merciful love.