FOR TODAY Look carefully at the image of Rembrandt's famous depiction of "The Return of the Prodigal Son." Some of the most beautiful words in scripture are this: “But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Rembrandt’s "The Return of the Prodigal Son" has been called the greatest picture ever painted. In it, we are immediately drawn to the younger son as he collapses into his father’s embrace and buries his face against his father’s chest. The father’s hands pull him close the way a parent does when a young child comes crashing into them after a long departure or when a minor injury needs care. The younger son’s rags, shaved head, and tattered feet bear the marks of a long humiliating journey. Take notice of the light around the father’s face and hands. Rembrandt uses light to depict divine mercy and forgiveness as it cuts through the darkness of sin, separation and the human systems we use to judge one another. Now, look carefully at the older son to the right. He wrings his hands in disapproval or guilt, but there is also light. Mercy has come to him, too. Light also falls on the figure to the back. A hand clasps over his heart. Perhaps he, too, knows the journey of mercy.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION Have you ever experienced the feeling of being “still far off” and then been embraced and welcomed just as you are? We often feel as if mercy is only given to those who have earned it somehow or have reached some lofty goal. Jesus loves us as we are, not as we are supposed to be. How does such an awareness make you feel? Does it change how you see and relate to others who are “still far off"?
MERCY This week we focus on mercy, a word we use frequently in religious contexts or even colloquially: “mercy me, Lord have mercy!" Such common usage can sometimes dilute the true depths of this word. Being “merciful” is a quality attributed to God and one that God asks of us in return. We will explore various aspects of this attribute and its impact on our relationships in the coming week. Find all previous daily devotionals here