BY: Fr. Gerald Musa



Exodus 32:7-11.13-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32;

Many people grow up with different images of God in their minds. Most often, the image of God we have in our minds is that of a very serious man or father who is busy counting our sins and waiting to punish us. On the contrary, Jesus presents to us the image of God as a caring and joyful father who has a great capacity to offer Tender Loving Care (TLC) to his beloved children. Jesus illustrates the love of God with a parable about a father and his son. The son asked his father for a share of his inheritance. The father graciously gave him and he went away to a faraway land where he recklessly squandered all that the father gave him. He was ashamed to go back home but things got really bad as he became hungry and wretched. He summoned the courage to go back home not sure if his father will accept him or not. He was pleasantly happy that the father accepted him and lavishly celebrated his homecoming. Some commentators of scripture suggest that Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal Son” should be renamed “Parable of the Loving Father” because the focus of the parable is more on the loving and compassionate father who joyfully received a wayward and stubborn son. According to this school of thought the roles played by the three principal characters in the story: The father, the prodigal son, and the elderly son, are important, but the role of the father is central in the message. Jesus gives this parable to offer us a fresh understanding and a fresh perspective on understanding God as a loving Father.

In the same 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke where Jesus narrates the story of the prodigal son, he presents God also as a loving shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in search of one which is strayed. Many people think that leaving 99 sheep in search of one is very illogical and what if the shepherd loses the other 99 sheep while he searches for the lost one?” It is important to understand that the parable illustrates how God desires everyone to be saved and how he does everything possible to bring back anyone that strays from the sheepfold. 1 Timothy 2:4 states that it is God’s will that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Similarly, it is the wish of parents to see each of their children grow up to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Parents know the strengths and weaknesses of each of the children and offer their support to each one accordingly. It is a common thing to see parents dedicate more of their time and energy to the little ones, and on the physically challenged and sick children, and the stubborn children more than to others.

What do you think about this prodigal son and his father and what part of the story touches your heart very deeply? For me, the part of the story, which I find, most striking is the courage and humility of the prodigal son to return home. Was he not afraid that the father would reject him? Was he not ashamed that he was coming back empty-handed and wretched? Was he not conscious of the fact that people in his town will laugh and mock him? Whatever, be the case, the prodigal son thought that returning him is the better option. This is because

Home is where he started
Home is where he is accepted
Home is where he is loved unconditionally
Home is where he is judged mercifully.

We can think of going back home as a spiritual journey. We are also like the prodigal son who went into the world looking for the “good life.” He searched for the good life in the satisfaction of food and drinks and yet he noticed that his soul was empty; he tried searching for the good life through the heavy sum of money he collected from his father and found out that money did not last long; he sought the good life in all pleasures of the world and yet the more he pursued the pleasure, the more happiness eluded him.

Going back home for us means conversion of the heart, making a U-turn towards God. Going back home could be a journey of one day and it could be a journey of many years. The story of the journey of the people of Israel is a perfect example of what a spiritual journey is like. They were determined to reach the new homeland God had prepared for them, and yet on their journey, they kept annoying God with their complaints and unfaithfulness. They went to the extent of making molten calf as their God. God said to Moses their leader: “I see how stiff-necked these people is, let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.” Moses, their mediator pleaded on their behalf (cf. Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14).

Paul speaks about his spiritual journey and his return home in his letter to Timothy:
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am the foremost. But for that reason, I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. (cf: 1 Timothy 1:12-17).

The sacrament of reconciliation offers us a special opportunity to return home to God the father. It is a special moment to say to God: “I have sinned against heaven and against you.” There is a prodigal son or daughter in each one as we long to return home. Returning home means forgiving ourselves, seeking forgiveness from God, and seeking the forgiveness of others. We have strayed and gone far from God, but the most loving father’s arms are wide open to embrace us back into his fold.

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