Today’s gospel reading is one we all know very well. The Prodigal Son. Much has been written about this parable. Which son do you identify with? The older son who is always with his father, doing as he should? Or, the younger son who has strayed from what is good, but eventually seeks forgiveness?
I think we can probably identify with both brothers AND the father at some point in life. If not personally, we know people in a similar situation. Admittedly, I used to really sympathize with the older brother.
The older I get, the more I identify with the father. I have watched many friends and acquaintances who go before me with older children suffer great pains when their adult children leave the faith. I have witnessed devout, holy, loving families lose children to the world. Quietly, I have prayed and begged for reversions and reconciliations. I hope others will do the same should I find myself in a related situation as our children grow.
Like God the Father in the first reading of today, “who does not persist in anger forever” and the father in the gospel story who was “filled with compassion”, these parents anxiously wait for their children’s return. No doubt, willing to forgive and embrace the souls dearest to them.
“Forgiveness is rarely deserved,” a quote by a group of priests I like to follow and read. I have been pondering this and realize how accurate the statement is. And yet, we are forgiven over and over by our Father because “he is kind and merciful” Ps 103.
My bible study group has been listening to The Rescue Project by Father John Riccardo. As one friend put it, “it is life changing.” The bottom line (so far, we have not finished the study) is that we have no idea how much we are truly loved. Our minds cannot fathom the depth of the Father’s love for us. Therefore, knowing that makes me think those who turn away do not understand what they have to lose. They do not realize what they have given up because they never fully embraced it in the first place. Yet, when and if they do realize and return, there should be great rejoicing.
And so, yes. A thousand times yes, I want to be like the Father, and the father, and forgive. Over and over again. Even when it is not deserved. Especially when it is not deserved.
My prayer is that you do too.