When walking around the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, one would not be able to miss a bronze life-size statue depicting the return of the prodigal son.
For many people, this story has lost its meaning due to it being overused at retreats, reconciliation services, and throughout the Lenten season. When this story is being told, many of us immediately connect the father’s love in the parable to the Heavenly Father’s love for us. That is not wrong, for I believe that is what the Lord wanted to portray to us and what we can rightly come to conclude from our own prayer of the scriptural passage.
As you can tell from the picture, I believe that the artist of this bronze statue likes to portray of the father’s gratitude to God as his son returns home. We can see the beautiful details of the father’s passion and tender love as he embraces the son. However, if you and I take a look closely, both of the father and son’s eyes are fixed to heaven, as if both of them are saying, “Thank you, Lord.” Perhaps it is the gratitude from the father, thanking God for bringing his son safely home, as well as the son for changing his heart to return back to his father.
I can relate to the artist’s depiction here because I have heard many prayers from parents and family members for the return of their children or loved ones back to God’s grace. I have heard many people’s pains and hurts as they pray for the ones they love. I have cried and prayed with them and for them. These encounters are not easy, and often times, there are no perfect answers. Yet, even in the anguishes of one’s pains, prayers ground hope and strengthen faith as they offer their loved ones to divine providence. While there are many reasons in these cases to lose hope and be cynical, many people continue to entrust the journey of their loved ones to the Lord, that He cares for them and guides them on the path needed. Perhaps these types of prayer will only make sense when we care about someone enough…enough to continue to love and pray for them even though they might ignore or reject this love in order to live their own lives.
I also have found myself in similar situations before, praying for a friend or family member to return back to the faith. As a matter of fact, I have a list of people who have entered my life that I pray for each night. Some of these people are currently struggling in their faith, some have now become lost in life, some have been out of touch or no longer in communication with me. Yet, all of them are significant and hold special places in my heart. I pray for those that I know, the ones that I love and the ones that are hard to love, the ones that entered my life and also the ones who are no longer there due to one reason or another. Sometimes I have to battle with the what-if’s: what I could have done so that these friendships would not be lost or so that we would not lose touch with each other. Yet, departures are a painful and natural part of life. No matter how short or long that relationship, how wonderful or hard to love that person can be, I believe we can always pray for them and with them.
So, I ask you today…
- Who are you praying for?
- Who is God inviting you to pray for?
- Do you know who is praying for you?
- Who could you pray for more?
These are hard questions. Yet, we are not alone nor are made to be alone. Even in our hard struggles and doubts, we know that there is someone who is praying for us. Do not lose hope! Reach out for help if needed for we are made for one another and God has given us the Church to journey and care for us. Do not let the Devil’s usual tactics of despair and hopelessness turn you and me away from the truth. Fight the good fight and ask the real (hard) questions deep within your soul. Listen, be humble and courageous as we seek to understand true love and where our heart belongs. Do not be afraid of returning home for we all come from somewhere and are given life by those who love us — no matter how imperfect it might be. True joy and love are found at home. We just have to learn to love it as it is and as we are instead of what needs to be in order for it to be picture perfect. Home is home because of the people and the relationships that nurture it, no matter how messy they might look many times. Our hearts will forever be lost and restless unless we are able to come home and embrace the homeyness of all the people and relationships that made it as it is. Truly, there is no place right home.
Most important of all, I would like to encourage you to really give thanks to the people who are in our lives. No matter how they might seem hard to love, they are special and God-given for some reasons. We are who we are today because of what has been given to us. If those things are not perfect, sift through the hurts and learn from the blessings. If they have hurt us, forgive. We did not come from somewhere random. We came from home, and even though our home and its past were not perfect, we do have a loving home with our Heavenly Father. He has loved us into being, and He continues to guide us with His love. I have learned the hard way to run away from what I am meant to be, only to find out the hard truth that I am not happy until I come back to the spiritual abode made by Him. I had to look at my unhappiness and its own lies. Even though it was hard, I had to look deep inside to understand why I had been so restless when I am away from home with Him. I had to learn to let God be the Father for me, and in that relationship, forgive, embrace, and love those who are around me with the same love He has for me. Our true home is to be with Him.
For me, it was a long, circling journey to finally come to know that I was trying too hard to make myself unhappy because I was trying too hard to run away and trying to make something unreal happen and satisfying. I thought that I could make a life for myself by forgetting what had hurt me by building lofty and unrealistic goals of personal achievements and self-defined happiness. I thought I was happy but I was just ignoring myself and denying the past and its baggage. Yet, my own journey of happiness, by whatever standards that I had set for myself at different times of life, always made me feel empty and unfulfilled. I had to learn to go back to the past in order to understand, reconcile, embrace, and love everything, especially the people and relationships as they are. I had to return home in order to truly find that this is where I need to be. Home makes me into who I am today by the grace of God. I can now love my home — of the past, in the present, and for the future — because it is filled with people and relationships that are special and important to me. This home is loved into being because I have come to understand that this home was made for me by God who loves me. It is always good to be home. It is good to be with Him who has loved and shown me how to love.
Today, I would like to pray for those who are far away from home as well as those who are at home waiting for those who have gone away. I pray for reunion and reconciliation. I pray for forgiveness and the true embrace of love. I pray that those who wait will find the joy of reunion one day, and those who are trying to find their way home will find it soon enough, so that all can say when they embrace each other: “Thank you, Lord.” I also hope that you and I, especially those whom we are praying for, will find the welcoming voice from our Heavenly Father and our loved ones, saying: “I am glad you are home.”