The Gospel at this past Sunday’s Mass was the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” featured in Luke 15:11-42. All of us know the story, with some referring to it as the “Parable of the Two Sons” or the “Parable of the Father Who Loves.” The father in the story shows love and mercy; both to the younger, rebellious son who ran off and squandered his father’s riches as well as to the older, dutiful son, who stayed behind in his father’s house, but became resentful. One son lived as a rebel while the other lived as a slave.
After welcoming back the younger son and throwing a party in honor of his return, the older son, still out working in the field, refuses to join the celebration. As the father goes out to approach him, his older son unloads all of his complaints, judgments, and anger onto his father in a bitter diatribe. The father absorbs the pain of his son, and appeals for mercy saying, “Son, you are with me always…everything I have is yours. But your brother was lost and now he is found; he was dead and now he is alive.” The father was inviting the older son back to the fullness of relationship with himself, just as he had done with his younger brother. The father did so with love and mercy.
Being one of the most popular parables in the New Testament, everyone knows the story, although it means different things to different people. I used to say before my conversion that I was the older son and after my conversion that I was the younger son. I see both the older and younger sons in me. It’s my feeling that they’re both in many of us. Understanding that this parable as told by Jesus is really about God the Father, in reflecting upon it, the mercy that He shows is astonishing. Regardless of whichever son we are and no matter our sins, God is waiting for us with open arms. He is running towards us, wanting to embrace, love, and heal us. God is great and life with Him is greatness in abundance.
Think of those that you love most in your life, whether your spouse, children, parents, friends, or others. Consider how much you love them and how that love manifests itself in your actions. Understanding that God’s love for us is exponentially greater than we can have for one another, reflect on how much God loves you. Like the Father in the parable, our God is all forgiving, all loving. There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. So many people don’t get this. Because of something they’ve done, they leave the Church or abandon their faith, believing that they’re not worthy of God’s love. There is no sin too big, too great for God to forgive. You may have heard, “the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for Saints.” 1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” God wants to love you more than He wants to use you.