Many times, when we hear about “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15:1-32, we begin to check out and stop listening. Perhaps it is often overused and we have heard it so many times growing up that we ceased to contemplate, reflect, and pray about the message our Lord tries to teach us. Furthermore, some people went to the other extreme of trying to idealize or romanticize the story! Either way, we have oftentimes lost focus on the personal, intimate, loving, and hard message of what it means to be lost and the necessary efforts to return home. Sadly, many of us do not even understand or know where is home, and that is why this parable is still very important today as it was for many in the past.
Home is not just a building, location, or an address on the map. Home is the place where we can feel loved and belonged. However, staying at home is a big struggle for many! There were times in the past when we think that we deserve better than what is being offered at home. We disliked and wanted to separate ourselves from the place and people we grew up with and came to know. We have all strayed or gone away in different ways, some with greater distances than others! Yet, many of us have learned that the greatest joy in life is found in knowing where home is… in all is simplicity, imperfections, and creative tensions. It is hard, but so necessary, to be able to love and embrace the people in our lives as they are instead of what they should be for us.
The process of coming home and being at home is not always easy! It takes a lot of courage, as well as vulnerability, sincerity, and humility to truly let go of what we have created and expected of others and for ourselves in order to embrace and love as we are able. Coming home is not always jolly, romantic, ideal, or perfectly scened like in the movies. There will be some awkwardness and creative tensions, some hurts and the need for forgiveness, as well as invitations to forgive. It will take many efforts and requires many opportunities to be humbled and let go of our expectations or demands. Yet, we will learn in the process, willing to reconcile, forgive, and accept the challenges because we understand that this is where we belong and the people there are worth loving.
The parable itself shows us many characters that we have often overlooked as well as many scenarios to contemplate and reflect on. However, there is one pertinent and real reminder… Not everything is perfect at home! The younger son thinks he knows better and only reflects on coming home when everything else in his life failed. Upon his return, he will have to learn how to be a real, loving, and caring son to his father instead of only worrying about his own goods. The older son lives at home but is wrapped up in his own little world of resentment. He lives close to his father but does not understand or able to love his father because he is so preoccupied and busy in thinking about what he does not have or compares himself to his younger brother. In a very awkward and hard situation, the father tries his best to lovingly embrace both. He tries to love them both in their own ways but he could not be understood by his children. They are constantly worrying about what they do not have!
In our relationship with God and others, too, we all have to learn and relearn how not to idealize or making things look perfect. There will always be creative tensions and misunderstandings, growing pains and rough edges, but they are real reminders that we are not just dealing with some innate systems or ideologies. Our relationships are with real, living, and at times complex, human beings. Therefore, we have to be holistic and organic, learning and relearning how to creatively love, and at times ask for forgiveness and forgive.
Like the father in the parable, God will be misunderstood even though He tries to meet us where we are and loves us as we are able. We will compare His goodness with others and think that He does not love us enough, especially thinking that we deserve more! We will be like the two sons who will either leave because we cannot stand living with Him anymore, thinking that we will get what we want if we have the freedom to do what we want as we like for ourselves, or simply staying close to Him but wrapped up in our own resentment because we think that we are not His favorites or that He does not care for us. Nevertheless, it is important to know that we will not always get what we want or think that we deserve.
God loves us personally and as we are able to receive!
Therefore, it is so crucial to understanding Who we belong to, Who loves us, and how much His love means for us. We all have to learn and relearn at times how to love Him and others by meeting them where they are instead of what they have to be for us! It takes a lot of patience to walk with one another with patience and in charity. We are all reminded to focus on the quality of relationships and cultivate them instead of objectifying or quantifying things that need to happen to make us happy.
I hope and pray that wherever you are in your faith journey, you will be able to discover and return back to the love of God if you have strayed away too far. It will be hard and challenging at times. If you need someone to talk, process, or walk alongside your journey, do not be afraid to reach out to a local parish priest or those who are close to you. We are not alone! Often times, we let the Devil tells us that we are abandoned, unloved, and forgotten, but we are not. The Church will always be there for you and I so do not be afraid to seek help from the Mystical Body of Christ. I hope and pray that we will all discover and able to appreciate where home truly is, to be with our Father and those whom He has put in our lives.
Is everything in my life, especially God and His love, enough for me?