I’m thankful for the opportunity to guest blog and share some thoughts on this Sunday’s gospel reading: the story of the Prodigal Son. (Note: if the parish where you worship this weekend is using the Year A readings for the Scrutinies, you’ll hear John’s account of Jesus healing the man born blind. I would encourage you to spend some time meditating on the Prodigal Son anyway!) We all know the story, which is found in Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel. A wealthy man has two sons, one leaves with his inheritance, spends everything, is forced to work as a laborer for basically nothing, returns home to beg forgiveness, and becomes the guest of honor at a feast because his father is so overjoyed that he has come home. Over the next couple of days, I’d like to offer some reflections on this story and what it reveals to us about our Father’s deep love and mercy and our relationship with Him.
Today, we’ll look at the Prodigal Son himself. Many preachers have picked up the theme that this story is not about either son but about the Father, yet I suggest that in looking at each son and his relationship with their father, we can see more clearly our Father’s love and the way He seeks to work in our lives. The Prodigal Son is clearly a sinner. Some have argued that the son’s actions (taking his inheritance and hitting the road) are a blatant statement that he wishes that his father were dead. There is obvious disrespect and disobedience here. But does this make the son a bad person? Should we write him off? Sin, by definition, damages our relationship with God and with other people. It is so easy for us to separate ourselves from the Father’s love, which makes us misguided, not unredeemable. The son does not realize any of this until he has hit rock bottom. He doesn’t understand that he built a wall between himself and his father until he recognizes that his choices were the reasons for his poverty and unhappiness. But there is hope. Through his trials, the son develops the virtues of humility and courage. Ultimately, he humbles himself and realizes that he has constructed a solid brick wall between himself and the Father and he has the courage to begin the journey home and seek reconciliation with his Father. Neither of these things is easy to do, but virtue can only be cultivated through difficulty, and the son grows in virtue in the process of repentance.
St Peter experienced something similar. He denied his Best Friend three times in his Friend’s hour of need. As the Gospels tell us, he wept bitterly when he realized the depth of his sin. Have you ever experienced this? I know I have. Peter and the Prodigal Son show us that we do not need to be afraid when we find ourselves in these places because the Father wants all of us to be with Him, even if we have separated ourselves from His great love through our sinfulness. Through the death of Christ and the sacraments of the Church, we can be restored, just as the Prodigal Son was restored when he returned home. In these moments, let us ask the Holy Spirit to increase humility and courage in us so that we will be open to the Father’s love, mercy, and healing.
Have a humble and courageous day!
Gillian Bourassa, Class of 2009