"Neither of the young men in the parable had lived long enough to know about giving or receiving mercy. However, after suffering separation in their own unique ways, they were each offered a unique return from isolation into the family fold. With no conditions, the love figure at 'home' blesses each of the children with forgiveness, mercy, and unconditional welcome.

"I enjoy being strong and able to support those who feel vulnerable. I'm also a generous giver, but in my ever-present 'earning' mentality, I feel nervous to receive kindness from others in view of having to always repay. I have mixed emotions about being welcomed home when I know this has not been my first leaving and will probably not be my last. But my life and my suffering are opening me to receive care, kindness, and support, with gratitude, and to feel worthy of love.

"Let us be aware of small gestures of love offered us by others that remind us of our unique beauty. Let us try to gratefully accept the smile, the tender word, the caring embrace, and the recognition that affirms our personhood. These are but reminders of the overwhelming reception awaiting our every return to communion with God's Spirit, and that mercy is always available and always confirming the truth of our belovedness."