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Pope’s Spiritual Exercises: God Gives Us What We Do Not Deserve

Reflecting on Prodigal Son, Says Only Mercy Can Redeem Us

Only mercy can redeem us…

According to Vatican News, during the Pope and Roman Curia’s spiritual exercises, Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça, who is leading the meditations, stressed this as he put the story of the Prodigal Son at the forefront of today’s morning meditation.

Meditations this year have been entrusted by the Pope to the Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian and vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon, who is leading the meditations on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”

In this morning’s reflection, the priest discussed how the story of the prodigal son is not a parable, but a mirror, and moreover, is ‘our story.’

This parable, he noted, which shows the father offering mercy to the son who did not deserve it, is about each one of us.

“Within us,” Fr. Tolentino said, “are feelings that are suffocated, things that need to be clarified, pathologies, countless threads that need to be connected.”

Noting there are many aspects of our lives that need reconciliation, he said, Jesus wants to give us His Word, and transform conflicts and fear.

“Only mercy, that excessive love that God teaches us, is able to redeem us,” he said.

The older son’s behavior, the Portuguese priest noted, helps us understand God’s mercy even more.

“Mercy,” he underscored, “is offering to another precisely what they do not deserve. It is difficult to define mercy precisely because it does not encase itself in one definition.” Mercy can be understood only, he went on to say, if we allow it to “incarnate itself ” within us “so that we might touch it.”

Concluding his reflections, Fr Tolentino expresses the fact that mercy is always excessive. The moderate person, the person who wants to play it safe, will never understand the Gospel of Mercy. This is because, “The Gospel of Mercy requires that our love be excessive” like the Father’s in the parable who understands everything without saying much. The Father shows us that mercy is gratuitous, it is the art of healing and rebuilding, the experience of forgiveness, the completely unexpected expression of tenderness. In the end, it is an excessive gift.

Whereas on Wednesday afternoon, the Pope focused on Jesus’ own struggle with human weakness and temptation.

During that 7th meditation, he stressed that our poverty is where Jesus intervenes.@ The greatest obstacle to the spiritual life is not our fragility, but our rigidity and self-sufficiency,” he suggested, saying we therefore must learn from our own thirst.

Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2018, Pope Francis departed the Vatican to participate in his annual Lenten Spiritual Exercises at Casa ‘Gesù Divin Maestro’ (the Divine Master House) in the town of Ariccia near Rome. For a week, the Holy Father will remain there praying with members of the Roman Curia. The retreat will conclude on the morning of Friday, Feb. 23. Until then, all of the Pope’s activities, including the weekly General Audience, Feb. 21, are suspended.

Originally, the Spiritual Exercises took place in the Vatican, but Pope Francis moved them to the retreat house, 16 miles outside of Rome.



About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': or

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