I chose to read the shortened version of today’s Gospel…to take the easy way out. (See the name of this blog!) By doing that, I completely missed out on the story of the prodigal son. Almost every reflection I read referred back to the part of the Gospel I missed because I decided to take a short cut.
Then I started wondering: How much do we miss when we take short cuts? What do we miss God telling us because we're too lazy to "do it right"? Even though there were 2 options for the Gospel, my choice was the shorter one.
The longer one included the story of the Prodigal Son. We had this in the Gospel Reading last Lent (March 6th, to be exact). I went back and re-read what I had written 6 months ago. It's amazing how different the message is now, and what's going on in my life. 6 months ago, we were going through some things with 1 of our adult sons. In just 6 short months, the message that I got from the story is completely different.
The Blessed is She devotion brought this question: Can't we all identify with every single person in the story of the Prodigal Son? There are times when we are the prodigal son: we want things now; we don't want to wait, and we don't think about or really care about how it may affect other people. There are times we are the brother: angry at the injustice of doing the right thing, only to have someone who has hurt others be put on a pedestal. Then, there are times when we are the father, anxiously waiting for someone to come back into the fold of the family; willing to forgive all that was done in the past to hurt us.
God is the father waiting for us to return to the fold; waiting for those who have left the Church to come back. I have family members who may never come back, but that doesn't keep me from praying every day for that to happen. There are times when I pray that God will welcome me back...even though I physically haven't left. We all need healing; even St. Teresa of Calcutta had dry spells, and I just bet she prayed for God to take her back during those times.
Last night at Mass, the priest said that the primary objective of the Prodigal Son is to "soften harden hearts". He mentioned that we need to learn how to share mercy; we have to learn to give mercy before we can receive it. It's not an entitlement, rather it's a necessity. The father in the story was able to show God's mercy by being a doting parent. Isn't that what God is? Doesn't He dote on us?
Are we no better than tax collectors, taking what we want without consideration of others' feelings? (ePriest) Yet Jesus invites us to His table to share His precious meal every Sunday...every day if we're able. I am so not worthy of this, yet God has given us Jesus by keeping His covenant (Dr. Scott Hahn). I wonder if giving us Jesus isn't God's last ditch effort for us to follow Him. Like the father in today's Gospel, He waits for us to return to Him. In today's crazy world, I know He is waiting more than ever.