(6th and final post in a series for National Bible Week. Reflection on Luke 15:11-32)
“Aren’t you going home for the holidays?” someone asked Bob as he signed up for December overtime.
“Are you kidding?” he replied with a sharp laugh. “They wouldn’t have me if I went.”
Few families are immune from scenes like this. A young man, eager to do his own thing, breaks ties and runs. A woman, feeling misunderstood and tired of fighting, starts a new family miles from home and doesn’t look back. A brother chafes against the family business. A daughter wants to be free. Feelings are hurt or worse. Slights real and imagined add up and reconciliation seems impossible.
God is no stranger to dysfunctional family life. His own children left him, disobeyed, even betrayed him by worshiping other gods or their own desires. Thank God, he never gives up on his children!
Jesus illustrated God’s mercy with a parable of a father and two sons. One is obviously “prodigal”—he rejects his father, makes an early grab at his inheritance, leaves home and wastes it all on “loose living.” The older son stays home but is no more attached to the family than his kid brother. He has more appreciation for his friends than for his father, whose relationship he describes in terms of slavery and obligation. In a sense, he too has renounced his sonship.
What pain that father must feel! And yet “everything he has” belongs to the older son and he lives waiting for the younger to return. When the prodigal comes home, Dad doesn’t wait for an explanation, let alone an apology. He stretches his arms wide and runs out to meet him. All is forgiven. As far as he is concerned, the young man has come back from the dead. In contrast, the older brother sulks in the shadows, resentful. He insists on his own rights and will not forgive. He is unable to enter the father’s joy.
Where are you in this story? Are you the prodigal, longing for home? Are you like the older son, unwilling to accept the wanderer back? Or are you like the father, holding out your arms, ready to forgive?
Our heavenly Father, who forgives us even when we stray, calls us to be his true children by extending his love to those who wrong us. In this way, “God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love,” said Pope Benedict XVI (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 2005). It can be hard—but God’s grace is enough. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Find your story in God’s story. Read the parable of the Prodigal Son together with friends or family, hearing it as God’s word spoken to you. Ponder what God says; reflect on how it speaks to your lives; respond in prayer; rest in his love.
© 2015 Sarah Christmyer. This post was previously published as a reflection on EntertheStoryNow.com under the title, “Does Your Family Have a Child Who Wants to Come Home?”
Heavenly Father, thank you for waiting for us, for running to us, for celebrating over our return, for giving us all things. Help those who are lost to come back to their senses and back to us. Help us to wait as you do, and to embrace as you do the people in our life who want to come home. Gather us all into your heavenly feast. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Look for these daily posts during National Bible Week, November 16-20 (links will be active after they post):
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR THE FAMILY (Series introduction and reflection on Esther)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES caught in a storm (Reflection on Matthew 14:22-23)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who have been delivered – or who need a miracle! (Reflection on Exodus 14:29-30; 15:1-2, 19-21)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who are asking, “Now what?” (Reflection on Luke 1:26-38)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who pray for the impossible (Reflection on Acts 12:4-19)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES that are broken (Reflection on Luke 15:11-32)
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Download these resources from the Catholic Ministries of the American Bible Society, prepared for the World Meeting of Families. Discussion Guides relate to the Scripture in this blog post:
- Family Discussion Guide
- Parish Discussion Guide
- Gospel of Luke 22-day “Journey” – Family Lectio Divina