Jesus Christ came to live among us as a man to gather all the nations of himself. He was going to do this through reconciling humanity to one another. It was anticipated that Jesus would initiate a revolution. He did do that but not in the way that was expected. The revolution he promoted was a revolution of the human heart.
This Sunday’s Gospel story commonly known as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) on one level is a heart-warming story of forgiveness. On another level it should disconcert us because it invites us to reflect on how far are we prepared to go in extending forgiveness in our own lives?
The father in this story forgives his Son despite the following;
- In asking for his inheritance before the due time he was telling his father ‘I wish you were dead.’
- Dividing the family property before the father died thus opening the way for the property to be sold to outsiders would have brought shame on the family.
- In leaving immediately for a distant country the son blatantly ignored his responsibility of caring for his father in his old age.
- The son squandering all his father’s inheritance in the pursuit of his own pleasure.
In the face of all of this it tells us that when the father sees his son in the distance on his way home, he runs towards him. In the time of Jesus this would have been considered to have been most undignified. Older people did not run like that. If that was not enough in calling for a cloak, sandals, a ring and for a feast to take place the father uses the most significant symbols from his own culture to honour his Son. He communicates to his son that he has completely restored as his son.
In running to the younger son and then approaching the older son later in the story the father is outside both times. This tells us that Jesus is the one who is prepared to go outside in order to be present to all people. No other religious leader in Jesus’ time would have thought of sharing their meal table with sinners and tax collectors. The very idea would have been abhorrent to them.
Overall the story tells us that God’s love and mercy transcends all concepts of reward and punishment. Does this confirm our own thinking in terms of extending forgiveness to others or does it challenge it? At one of our weekday masses during this week we listened to another Gospel from Luke (Luke 11:14-23). Jesus said ‘whoever is not with me is against me…’ The message for us if we truly wish to call ourselves a follower of Jesus, we must forgive others as he did. Is it possible that this Lent is calling us to have a revolution of the heart in this area?