Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

He runs to meet US!

So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. - Luke 15:20

The parable of the prodigal son was proclaimed at Mass today. I have never met a person who said, "You know. I can't STAND the story of the prodigal son." I think it is because we can all see a bit of ourselves in that story, some of us more than others. If you want to read the entire parable, you can find it

The verse mentioned above really stood out to me as I was contemplating things tonight. In the first part of the verse, we see the first thing that is necessary for us to return to God. The prodigal son decides at his lowest point, that of desiring to eat hog slop, to return home to his father and hope for the best. Catholics experience this in a unique way. We first have an inward conversion, a turning from sin. And we know the way back home is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have to go to confession. That is the "hoping for the best" part because, as most Catholics will tell you, going to confession after living a life of sin is a daunting and scary prospect.

But, in the second part of the verse, Jesus reveals to us the nature of God, that of compassion and mercy. The prodigal son is still far away when the father sees him in the distance and has compassion. He doesn't stop in his tracks and wait for the son to get to him, no he runs to the son, embraces him, and kisses him. And when his son says to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son." the father says, "Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him!" This is the reality we discover when we leave the confessional.

In this parable, while Jesus is teaching something about each of us as individuals, he is also teaching something about humanity in general. We see the image of the fall of man and expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the subsequent return home and reconciliation of mankind as a whole. When the father says, "Quickly, bring the finest robe" the Greek wording (as I learned from reading a book by Pope Benedict) is "Quickly, bring the first robe." In other words, to quote the Holy Father:

"The first robe is the robe in which Adam was created and which he lost after he had grasped at likeness to God. All the clothes subsequently worn by man are only a poor substitute for the light of God coming from within, which was Adam's true "robe". The man who in faith returns home receives back the first "robe", is clothed again in the mercy and love of God, which are his true beauty."

After reading this interpretation, I have just one more reason to love the parable of the prodigal son.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.


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