The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the best known and loved of all the parables Jesus told. Many folks think the older son got a raw deal and that the younger son got away with murder. They feel he should have been punished for what he had done. However this parable is a powerful reminder that God’s ways are not our ways!
The younger son thought he had it all until he ran out of money. It was then that he realized the pain he had caused his father. It was not easy for him to acknowledge this about himself and it took great courage for him to make the decision to return home.
The road back home was a sad, lonely and fearful one. It’s easy to return home when you have something to show for what you have done. However, to return home empty handed was not so easy. Also, he was carrying with him the burden of shame and disgrace for what he had done.
Everything was out of the younger son’s control. What if his father would not take him back? He knew he deserved to be punished. Yet being punished was the last thing he needed. In reality, he had already been punished. He didn’t have a good time. Maybe he had pleasure, but he certainly had no joy. He had suffered a lot; hunger, loneliness, degradation of soul, the pain of remorse, the sense of betrayal. Each sin of his had brought its swift penalty. To sin is to suffer and he didn’t need more punishment.
The younger son had learned a difficult lesson through it all, some painful truths about himself, about others, and about life. He had eaten forbidden fruit, and far from being satisfied, he was left with a bitter taste in his mouth. If he had been met with rejection by his father it would have destroyed him.
When the father saw his wayward son coming towards him, his heart was moved with compassion, and they found themselves being held in each other’s arms. The father didn’t just accept him back. He welcomed him back. All was forgiven.
The younger son discovered, much to his surprise, that he was loved in his sins. The father never stopped loving him. To be loved in one’s sins is an extraordinary experience. This is what grace is all about. Those who have experienced this kind of love, know something profoundly powerful about God, as revealed to us through the Heart of Christ.
God’s forgiveness is not a cold, half-hearted forgiveness, but a warm and generous one. God doesn’t just forgive us; he loves us, and lets us know it. The parable does not give us a license to sin. But it does show us that if, through human weakness or wickedness, we do sin, then we can come back. Our past can be overcome. We can make a fresh start. This is the lesson of the parable…..our God is a God of second chances. May we never forget this.
— Father Dennis, March 31, 2019