This Gospel says that while away the prodigal “came to himself.” Developmental psychologists say that some young people need to reject their conventional faith (e.g. of their family) in order to come to their own faith.
Put another way, at least some may need to go to “a distant land” in order to “come to themselves.” Note that the second son who stayed home also had his rebellion from conventional faith as he talks back to his Father, refusing to go to the feast.
Rather than having failed, parents of prodigals or rebels may have succeeded – in giving their young person the confidence to leave home to spread their wings and find their own faith. You’ve probably heard the saying: “If you love something set it free, if it returns it was meant to be, if it continues to fly let it soar, and have faith that God has something better in store.” And another one: “Sometimes, you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down.”
The gospel suggests that the Prodigal Parent is on the look-out for their wandering child, scanning the horizon, hoping against hope for their return. Upon sighting their child, the parent’s heart is “filled with compassion” and rushes out to welcome the one for whom they have yearned and prayed. “Prodigals” of all ages need to know that we are hoping for their return and that they will always be welcome home – with open arms.
Our Gospel shows us the difference between “coming home” and a “home-coming.” The son approached in fear and trepidation; the parent flung aside any resentment and ill-will. The child was coming home to he knew-not-what kind of a reception. The parent threw a spontaneous homecoming party.
The Parent welcomed and embraced the Prodigal before an apology crossed his lips. What a picture of unconditional love! Our diocesan motto “Live the Gospel Courageously” includes the theme of welcome to all, Saints and Sinner alike.
It doesn’t matter if prodigals don’t return to our particular expression of faith within God’s family. We hear the expressions “fallen away Catholic” or “lapsed Catholic.” We remain hopeful that they will make their way home to God. The path may not be ours. We pray that the good values that were instilled and modeled for them over the years – will sustain their journey, whatever road they take. And, we pray that we remember: true “forgiveness” is present long before the embrace of a homecoming.
The waiting father, the renegade son and the “look at how good I have been” son … all knew peace at the end of the day. The father seems to have completely forgotten his agitation, worry and concern as peace overwhelms him at the return of his younger son. That wayward son must have been so very relieved at the response of his father that peaceful gratitude must have washed over him. I suspect that the older brother forgot to sweep at his own front door – yes? What peace must have invaded his attitude as his father – and younger brother – assured this embarrassed, humbled fellow of their never-ending love.
We believe Benedict when he says that seeking peace is the way to heaven – heaven in the after-life and a little bit of heaven here on earth. In the Prologue to Benedict’s Rule we find the admonition: “If you wish to have true and eternal life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit; turn from evil and do good; seek PEACE and pursue it.” Another translation says, “seek peace and go after it.” That conjures up quite an image… dashing out of the chapel, into the dining room, down the halls, out the door, into the neighborhoods, climbing God’s holy mountain pursuing PEACE – never abandoning charity nor giving a false peace, peacefully performing whatever duties are entrusted to us, ensuring we have made peace before sundown.
Let us renew our commitment to make PEACE more than a concept that we talk about … let us make a daily pledge to be people of peace, to be a peaceful people. Make each day an echo of what Paul tells us in the second reading: “the old things have passed away; behold new things have come…. We have been reconciled through Christ and (this is the punch line) WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN A MINISTRY OF RECONCILATION.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
4th Sunday in Lent (March 31, 2019)
Joshua 5:9a; 10-12 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Luke 15:1-3; 11-32