Grace: To know the mercy of the Father and His unconditional love for me in the midst of my sinfulness.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 15:11-32
Reflection: Jesus’ story of the prodigal son provides a uniquely comprehensive vision of the nature of our own sinfulness, the mercy of our heavenly Father even in light of that sinfulness, and the beauty of the encounter when we finally come home to that mercy.
To start with, it is good to note that for the son to go and ask for his inheritance while his father is still alive is effectively proclaiming to the father that he might as well be dead as far as he is concerned. The radical selfishness that takes over the son’s desires has no room for concern for anyone else, including the one who gave him life itself. The son proceeds to operate unhesitatingly according to this self-centered worldview as he goes to a “far off country”—far from home and far from the source of his life.
This selfishness, taken to its logical end, concludes in misery. Sooner or later, we all “bottom out” when we live according to that mode of selfishness. The vividness of the scene where the son is stuck with the pigs and longing for what they feed upon conjures up in us the utterly pathetic state in which we are left when we have so totally turned in on ourselves and turned away from the love of God in our own lives. It is a pitiful place to be in and it can look like there is no way out of it. Only in this moment of “hitting rock bottom” is the son prepared to receive the mercy that the Father has desired to offer him since the first moment he turned away.
The Father, who has apparently been scanning the horizon all the while looking for his lost son, rushes out to meet him. That is the heart of the Father that Jesus reveals to us. The son can’t even get his speech out of his mouth. The father’s mercy envelops him before he can even utter the words seeking some degree of forgiveness and toleration from his Father. The father responds with much more than toleration—he restores him to a dignity greater than any he had apparently ever enjoyed—robing him in glory and majesty and initiating a great feast.
Questions: When have I experienced this kind of mercy? When have I shown it? Remember and re-visit the conditions, what it felt like. Am I in the midst of a situation of shame and regret right now that seems too great to overcome? Am I stuck with the swine somehow, wondering what it would be like to “go home”? Is there a prompting in my heart in this direction? Is there another person in my life who might be liberated and lifted up if I showed him or her a taste of this same mercy of the Father?