Grace: To know the mercy of the Father and His unconditional love for me — even in the midst of my sinfulness.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 15:11-32
Reflection: The Prodigal Son story is one of the most familiar parables in the New Testament that one can return to time and again. We recall the basic outline: The son, wanting to strike out on his own, approaches his father for his inheritance early. He travels into the far country, away from what is known and safe, and gives himself to a life of debauchery and misery. Exhausted and penniless from trying to go it alone, he finds his way back to his father’s house in fear and trembling of his father’s rejection. And upon his return, his ever-watchful father sees him coming and “was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
With familiarity, it is easy to breeze through the parable’s narrative. “I’ve seen this movie before,” we say, and besides, most of us take for granted that when you reach a certain age, you move on from your parents’ home, and learn from your own mistakes. And as frequently happens nowadays, people move for jobs or higher education halfway across the country with little thought of duties to their parents. Our culture revels in breaking free and experiencing the world. The idea of living with one’s parents is unusual and unwelcome.
And so the scandal of what the Prodigal Son does – demanding his father’s inheritance before he dies – may be lost on us. While few people in the 21st century head to college forswearing their parents outrightly, most young people nevertheless prefer freedom and independence to duty and relationship to their parents. We in the United States (and elsewhere in the West) do not feel acutely the reliance on God, or family, and prefer to ‘go it alone’ until we cannot any longer.
In the spiritual life, we can bring on spiritual deserts and desolations of our own makings, often occasioned by the tepidity and spiritual languor that was discussed last week. We ever so slowly drift from God, confident that we can do things by ourselves. And yet these periods of ‘going it alone’ are ultimately unsatisfactory, and we feel a tug, a nudge, to return to God. But that return is often occasioned by fear and internal resistance.
Questions: Where in my spiritual life have I experienced a spiritual languor and distance from God the merciful and patient Father?
Do I hold sins or patterns of sin away from God’s light and the Sacrament of Reconciliation – either because of prideful independence, or fear of God’s response?
What does the parable have to say about how the Father treats the repentant child?
“But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'”