By Very Rev Paul Roberts EV, Catholic Outlook, December 2016
As Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv walked out through St Patrick’s Cathedral’s Jubilee of Mercy Holy Door for the final time on 13 November 2016, representatives of parish and school communities in the Diocese of Parramatta walked ahead of him, each carrying a large canvas of Rembrandt’s famous painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son.
This was a gift prepared by the Diocese’s Institute for Mission intended to also coincide with the Diocese’s 30th birthday.
With each gift canvas there is a display easel and resources to help facilitate meditation and reflection for groups in our parishes and schools.
In parish communities for example, the canvas might be displayed during a children’s sacramental program for a parents’ guided meditation or during Lent with pieces of reflection.
It might be a moveable display around school classrooms or a periodic display in public spaces.
Or it might help in senior school students’ retreats or with the children’s version of the reflections for primary school theme preparations or in parishes’ children’s liturgy programs. ‘
A special display frame is provided to attach to the top of each easel to help begin people’s appreciation of Rembrandt’s painting.To access both the full reflections and the children’s resource that were provided with the gift canvasses, click here.
While this gift was given at the closing of the Cathedral’s Jubilee Door of Mercy, it was not given as a gesture of closing or ending! Rather, as was highlighted during the Mass, it was given as a thanksgiving.
And it was given to signal our commissioning from the Year of Mercy onwards. The Mercy Year now sends us into the world as a people more convinced of what the Father wished his older son in the Gospel parable to know: ‘All I have is yours!’
In fact, each gift canvas shows those words spoken to the older son: “All I have is yours.” (Lk 15:31). It might seem unusual when looking at the canvas to see that it is these words to the older son that have been included, because in the painting, the father is obviously dealing with the younger son!
But thinking about the parable, it is in fact the younger son, in his deep need, who is actually the one now able to hear those words.
The parable is unfinished. We don’t know if the older son becomes vulnerable enough to really receive and know those words in his heart. But in Rembrandt’s painting, that older son watches as the father, having been so wounded by the reckless younger son, nevertheless images this ultimate truth of God’s selfless tenderness. The younger son now receives all that the father has and all that the father is!
With the Jubilee Door at our backs and its mercy in our bones, we go out as a people who have received; as a people of thanks and sure hope; as a people with a unique freedom to share with the world, as we live and breathe God’s promise that ‘All I have is yours!’
Very Rev Paul Roberts EV is Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation and Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of Parramatta.