This Sunday’s Gospel “The Parable of the Lost Son” speaks right into the heart of mercy, not just how God extends mercy to the lost who are found but how we are all called to be merciful, and in fact not just to be merciful, but to live mercy as God’s hands and feet. Saint Theresa of Avila beautifully wrote:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
So, what does being God’s hands and feet have to do with a parable about a lost yet repentant son being celebrated upon his return home? Let me explain.
I’ve encountered “The Parable of The Lost Son” more times than I can count. Not just from reading, hearing or praying the parable through the Scriptures, but as a lived experience time and time again. Sometimes when I feel out of sorts and take the time to quieten the white noise of distractions, stress, anxiety, tiredness, busyness and negativity, I feel like I am the lost son (or daughter as it were) making my way back into the loving, comforting, joyful arms of the One who knows me even better than I know myself; my Father, my Creator… God. The minute I lean into the strength of God’s unwavering mercy I feel myself letting go of my defensiveness in favour of taking a long, hard, honest look at my choices and seeking forgiveness for when I’ve messed up. This same mercy-filled embrace leaves me feeling like my feet are planted firmly on solid ground, empowering me to take more compassionate Christ-like steps as I venture back out into the world.
Other times I’m not reflective of the lost son, but the older son. Judgement, justice and jealousy can sometimes seem like slightly different shades of the same colour, and, if I’m being honest, it can be hard at times to discern exactly which colour I’m wearing when I start crying out: “It’s not fair!”. It’s not until I catch myself and stop mid cry to listen, that I hear God’s tender and gentle voice prodding me to ask myself: “What’s not fair?”. You see, when in the arms of the One who is unfalteringly just, my judgement and jealousy soon stand out, not as subtle shades of justice at all, but as bold and undeniable colours in their own right, and not flattering ones at that. And so, with the voice of mercy still ringing in my ears I look with soft Christ-like eyes into the heart of the other, taking into account their perspective, experience, struggles, hurts, hard work and authentic desire for forgiveness and reconciliation. Mine become the eyes with which God looks with compassion on this world and judgement and jealousy quick fade in favour of a radiant heart of justice.
And then there is the third character, the Father, the One who rejoices in and celebrates the goodness, humility and sincere ache for reconciliation and redemption in each of us. The Father is the One that I will spend my life trying to be, and at times, even succeed in being. The One that needs my body, hands and feet to live mercy in this world so that the lost, vulnerable, hurting, isolated, judged and forgotten can feel seen, heard, loved, valued, celebrated and most importantly embraced in mercy.
And so, as you hear or read the Gospel this week, whether you feel like you are the lost son, the older son or even the Father, perhaps you might like to take with you the knowledge that Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the lost feel seen, the ears through which the lost feel heard and the heart through which the lost feel embraced, known and loved.