A Father’s Crazy Love!
The parable is often used at reconciliation services to illustrate the importance of conversion in our lives. That when we have strayed from God we need only turn our hearts back to him and God will welcome us with open arms. As an illustration of the power of conversion and repentance I think the story speaks volumes on its own.
The interesting thing is that Jesus does not present the story on its own. In Luke’s Gospel it is prefaced by two other little anecdotes, one about a lost sheep and the other about a lost coin. The context seems to be telling us that the parable is not so much about sin and repentance but about God’s passionate love for each one of us.
When you consider a woolly little sheep grazing in the pasture do you think it might have any sense of right and wrong, do we think of a sheep as a moral creature? A coin doesn’t hide itself on purpose nor can it do anything for itself to be found again. But the objects in both stories do have one thing in common. They are both highly valued by the ones who have lost them and in both cases the owners go to extravagant means to get them back.
Jesus is trying to tell us something here. He is trying to get into our heads how much God is in love with us, so much so that it’s just plain foolish. He is trying to teach us that God will do anything for us.
We write songs about that kind of love. Its Climb the highest mountain, swim the widest ocean, cross the driest desert for you kind of love. St. Alphonsus used to write about this kind of love that God had for us, he would say God is “Pazze” (crazy) for us.
As we look at our other readings for today this theme is apparent throughout. In the first reading from Exodus the Israelites, whom God has saved from slavery in Egypt, have turned their back on God and they have begun worshiping golden idols. At first God is enraged, God acts as a jealous lover. And in his anger God says to Moses, “I am going to destroy your people for what they have done.” And Moses, ever the diplomat says, “Ah, but God, these are not my people, these are your people, the ones you have chosen, these are the people whom you promised to be with to the end of time. And God remembers his love and changes his mind even before the people get a chance to repent even before they destroy their idols.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy he describes what a terrible life he had been living before he came to know the risen Christ. Paul describes himself as a blasphemer and a man of violence, says he was a persecutor of Christians. And he doesn’t profess to have turned his life around, but rather it was the grace of Jesus Christ that overflowed in him that changed his life. The man who was persecuting Christians was saved by the grace of Christ.
When we look once again at the story of the prodigal son from this perspective we focus not on the sin of the young man, not on his decision to return to his home to face what waits for him there. Instead our focus is on the Father who never stops loving. The father who goes about his daily routine with only half a mind on his work while he keeps one eye on the horizon always hopeful that this will be the day that his lost son returns. In the story there is not a moment of hesitation in the father when he finally sees his son. There is no playing back in his mind of the many ways the son had hurt him. Rather he runs to greet his son while he is still a long way off and holds him in his arms and kisses him even before the son has chance to say he is sorry.
The Father is waiting. What are you waiting for?
Ask for help to forgive someone who has hurt you.