Today the Church offers us one of the most well know and loved parables of Jesus – the parable of the prodigal son. However, as Pope St. John Paul II let us know in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia, this story could also be called the parable of the merciful father. Indeed, in a special way, this parable is a story about the relationship between the father and the son.
One of the key lines is “he squandered his inheritance.” At the simplest level, the inheritance is the money the younger son received from his father. At a much deeper level, the inheritance was the relationship the younger son had with his father. The money was only a symbol of the status of the younger son as an heir or son of the father.
The fundamental issue for the younger son is that he did not value his life as a son of the father.
Here’s the good news – the father did value the relationship. After the son left, the father waited for him. It’s as if he couldn’t go to sleep for the night until he had gazed across the horizon in search of a sign for his son. At last, he sees him. The father goes to the son. Before the younger son can make his “confession,” the father embraces him, kisses him, and welcomes him into the home.
This is very good news for us. Although it may not be as dramatic as the younger son, each of us fails to fully comprehend or appreciate our status as sons and daughters of God the Father. We fail and sin against him in so many ways. Fortunately, our Father is rich in mercy (Cf. Ephesians 2:4). He comes to us … even when we’re still lost. He wants to restore to us our dignity. He wants to welcome us back in to his house. Lent is the perfect time for us to make an act of faith in the mercy of the Father. Go to confession and be welcomed back into the Father’s house – the Church.
Steve Bollman is the founder of Paradisus Dei, a national lay ministry dedicated to helping families discover the superabundance of God in marriage and family life. His ability to integrate the latest findings from modern science with the enduring wisdom of Christianity has proven profoundly life transforming for modern audiences. Steve lives with his wife and daughters in Houston, Texas.