In today’s Gospel reading, we learn about the prodigal son. This evergreen story tells us the good news in a condensed and emotionally charged way. Our heavenly Father loves us immeasurably. He is grieved when we sin and fall away, individually and collectively. Sin effectively does as the prodigal son did; we walk away from our true home and the very source of our life, nourishment, and sustenance. Cut off from the source of life, we cannot live very long. We soon begin to rummage around in the garbage. Removed from the safety barriers of the Father’s protection and guidance,, we quickly injure ourselves and others. Yet, our Father never stops loving us, desiring our return, and calling to us from a distance. The distance is never so great that the Father’s call is unheard.
When we come to ourselves, the Father illuminates a path for us to travel and gives us the Holy Spirit as a guide and comforter along the way. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking we are too far gone. That we have sinned so much, been away from church so long, and done too many bad things that God cannot possibly want anything to do with us. Satan is the father of these lies. The Heavenly Father that loves us is the same One that forgave St. Peter’s denials, wrested St. Paul from his hatred of the Way, and converted some of the most violent kings and rulers across the world.
The story of the prodigal son tells us that no one is ever too far gone. God’s love is infinite and everlasting. It is inexhaustible. We are finite and limited. We are quickly exhausted. We therefore cannot comprehend God’s love for us. This is perfectly ok. We do not need to comprehend it to respond. We can simply respond. Our sins can be forgiven, wiped away, and completely absolved. We cannot comprehend this, either. Our conceptions of justice and mercy are limited. We may not understand at all how God can forgive a person for heinous sin, apostasy, and so forth. But that is exactly why Jesus teaches us; He gives to us what we could never get on our own. This in itself is an element of grace. May we receive it with gratitude as we meditate on today’s reading.