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The Prodigal

I've heard it so many times that I tune in and out. Impetuous son takes the money and runs. Good times abound for awhile. Then things go bad. No more party. No money, no food, no family, no friends. He blew it. So he sucks it up, swallows his pride and goes home. Says he's sorry. Father forgives. Father rejoices. Father celebrates. Brother finds out. Brother gets hot! Brother resents. Father explains. Case closed.

OK. I get it.

But I want to know what new lesson I'm supposed to learn from my 500th review of this story. We go astray. We repent. God forgives. We resent. Don't resent!

Every homilist asks me if I am asking for forgiveness, forgiving, or resenting the forgiveness.

I admit it. I've done all three. Although asking and resenting are more common to my experience.

But this time there is something different. I go back and read again. And there it is! The unique revelation about the true personality of God. One more reassuring tidbit that has escaped me all these years.

The "prodigal" son (have you ever heard this word used anyplace else?) has decided to go home and beg for forgiveness. He'll live with the servants if he has to. He'll slop the hogs. But at least he won't starve. As God is his witness, he'll never go hungry again! So he heads home. Ashamed. Defeated. Prepared to grovel.

But he doesn't make it home! Nor does he get the opportunity to give all of his well-rehearsed speech to his father. Because the father sees him coming and goes out to meet him. The father doesn't know what has happened. He doesn't know why his son has returned. He doesn't care! His son has come home and everything is OK. All is forgiven. No explanation necessary.

"While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly." (Luke 15:20-21)

I am now aware of a deeper level of mercy and forgiveness from the God that I have often feared. He's willing to meet me halfway. More than halfway. He sees me and recognizes that I am a long way from where I should be, but he also knows that I want to come back. I'm hungry. I'm lonely. I want to go home. I know the direction but I'm not sure that I'll be accepted when I get back. But I don't have to get back. I only have to want to get back and take the first steps. Because my Father will see me even though I'm a long way off. And He'll come to me!

The repentance aspect of this parable has always been obvious. As has the forgiveness and resentment themes. But this time the mercy/forgiveness angle is highlighted, asterisked and underlined. My God cares much more about my attitude and my heart's desire than my ability to travel the long way home. So he sends a limo! And he drives it himself. And the vehicle is loaded with items that replenish a depleted spirit.

Accept the lift. Enjoy the ride. Don't look in the rear view mirror. Move forward with gratitude for mercy and appreciation for love. And go where the Driver takes you.

-- by Terry McDermott 
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This article is Copyright 2000 by Terry McDermott

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