Dear Friends in Christ ,
Jesus attracted those on the outside of society – the socially unacceptable and scorned. Tax collectors, prostitutes and other public sinners clearly enjoyed his company. They were drawn by his acceptance of them, which made them open to hearing what he had to say. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were scandalised by the company he kept. They harshly judged those they saw as morally bankrupt or spiritually inferior.
Typically, Jesus seizes the moment to teach about the Father. So often, like the Pharisees, our image of God is tainted or distorted. We can fall into one of two extremes: we either imagine God as a tyrannical judge who is angry much of the time, or we settle for the notion that God is indulgent and avuncular, his teaching and commands having little or no bearing on our lives.
Jesus’ parable brings us right into the heart of his Father. Firstly, God has given each of us free will – we are at liberty to follow or reject him. However, this immense gift of freedom carries with it a profound responsibility. The prodigal son exercised his freedom and chose to leave the safety of his father’s house. At the dawn of creation, we freely chose the path leading away from God. Removed from the love, security and protection of the Father’s house we lost our way. Sin, death and corruption robbed us of the dignity we once possessed. Like the prodigal son we became slaves of our passions and drives.
The image of the chastened son returning to his father’s house is deeply moving. We do well to meditate upon this picture of profound human need satisfied by divine mercy. Jesus’ teaching about his Father exposes us to a love so divine and compelling that it has the power to melt the hardest hearts. We too can experience the warm embrace of our heavenly Father. His prayer and cry for the returning son comes from his divein heart and speaks to each of us: ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this son of mine was dead , and is alive, again; he was lost, and is found.’