St. Helen’s Daily Lenten Devotional
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons… The younger said ‘I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:11-24, selected, and read 25-32
Consider the Prodigal Son. The actual meaning of prodigal includes ‘excessively extravagant’ and recklessly wasteful or lavish. But the lavishness does not rest in the young man’s party life but in the generosity of the father’s forgiveness. So sometimes this parable is called the prodigal Father and it has also been reinterpreted as the prodigal Mother.
It’s this forgiveness stuff that might make the Lenten journey, or even life’s journey, an uphill climb. In this story Jesus tells of a child who rejects family, lives an unhealthy, immoral lifestyle and goes into debt big time. This is not a singular story; we know it well in every age. Neither is a child who harbours resentment that a parent might forgive such a sibling, that he might be welcomed back, that ‘Dad always loved you best’ a rare thing. The news, the good news, is the willingness of a parent to risk personal feelings, finances and status by welcoming the child home. This image, of the father running to greet his child, would have been striking for Jesus’ listeners…one just didn’t do that sort of thing; it wasn’t proper! The good news for us in the story is that it is a story about God’s nature. The Holy One who welcomes us, forgives us, feeds us and enfolds us in an embrace that will never be broken.
Our next step, knowing how gracious and forgiving God is to us, is to do that self-examination that points to the forgiveness question for ourselves…who do we need to forgive; of whom do we need to ask forgiveness? Theologically speaking, we are all sinners in the eyes of God and all need forgiveness; all of us fall short; all of us have been closed to new ideas, new possibilities, all of us have injured others, both known and unknown. Admitting our faults is the first step but I think that what takes guts to going to those who you have hurt, in whatever way, and asking for their forgiveness. Then both you and they are freed, as reconciliation, in some form, takes place. It is also true that some relationships aren’t set right, ‘on this side of heaven’, and we have to live with that as well.