Today is the halfway mark of Lent. This Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday for the first word of the Entrance Antiphon laetare (rejoice); it is a Sunday of joy.
This week's Gospel is from St. Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.
This reading recounts the parable of the Prodigal Son, one of Jesus' most beautiful parables. It teaches us once more that God is a kind and understanding Father. The son who asks for his part of the inheritance is a symbol of the person who cuts himself off from God through sin. "Although the word 'mercy' does not appear, this parable nevertheless expresses the essence of the divine mercy in a particularly clear way" (John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 5).
Mercy — as Christ has presented it in the parable of the prodigal son — has the interior form of the love that in the New Testament is called agape. This love is able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin. When this happens, the person who is the object of mercy does not feel humiliated, but rather found again and 'restored to value'. The father first and foremost expresses to him his joy, that he has been 'found again' and that he has 'returned to life'. This joy indicates a good that has remained intact: even if he is a prodigal, a son does not cease to be truly his father's son; it also indicates a good that has been found again, which in the case of the prodigal son was his return to the truth about himself"
O God, who through your Word reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.