Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, March 22, 2004

...and then it made sense

Sometimes the best insights are tiny.

I was driving back, musing on the post-confession in-class experience (my students and I had been discussing confession in catechism class) when the Prodigal Son parable popped into my head (Hmm...I wonder Who put it there?) and the scales fell from my eyes (ew! that's figuratively! ew!) and it (the parable) finally made complete sense.

God, like the Father is not only ready to forgive us, He's ready to jump the gun to forgive us. All we, like the prodigal son who went off to spend his (father's)money on malt liquor and floozies, have to do is go back to our father. Like the father in the parable He will be so happy to see His child return that He will run to us (like--duh--the father in the parable) and not even let get us get a half-decent apology out.

Return to our father in repentance. That's it. That's all that God asks us to do if we want His forgiveness. Just go and pick it up. It's there waiting. When we do, His rejoicing is even greater than our gratitude or relief, hard as that may be to believe. We only have to be open to "the catch": that we must go back to him for that forgiveness. To a lot of people this seems like a scorching inconvenience*.

In the parable, the father saw his son coming from a long way off, which clearly implies the father was keeping a constant lookout for the wayward son (Now, just Who else do we know that would do such a thing?)...but notice the father didn't go rummaging for his son, didn't go up to him as he was exploring Exciting New Growth Opportunities in the Field of Swineherding** and didn't say "Gee, kid, that Purina's Pig Chow sure looks better than your lunch. Say you're sorry and we'll call it square. You can pay me back the money in easy monthly installments."

No. The father forgave him fully and totally and rejoiced but ONLY after he got the first inkling of the son's repentance. Because repentace requires committment. Repentance isn't the same as saying "Whoa, God. Sorry about that." Repentance is a committment and there can't be any committement without action. The son had to leave the Junior Assistant Pig Technician gig purely on the faith that his father would accept his being sorry. And his faith, like ours, will always be rewarded with more than we hoped.

It's outrageously relieving to know that when we turn towards God, He will:

1- Run, not walk towards us and
2- meet us more than halfway.

He'll even forgive us when we act like the older brother (which is entirely too bloody often; selfish twits that we are) who preferred sulking in self-righteousness than rejoicing in his brother's return and having a T-bone of fatted calf with him.*** Instead he whined and moaned about not having even a barbecued goat for his friends, who from the sound of it, were probably as big a bunch of whiners as he was. As we all are.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I checked, and the phrase "Well, only if we feel like it" isn't mentioned anywhere in there.

So let us all rejoice in the forgiveness we all receive from Him, and show that rejoicing by sharing it.

* These are people who'd be upset about streets paved with gold, because they'd have to stoop down to take the gold.

** Don't think that tidbit was lost on a Jewish audience of the time

*** This little bit was to let us know that as we are forgiven by God, so must we accept and share and rejoice in the forgiveness He has given others, especially those who have harmed us, even if we'd far prefer to see them eaten alive by wild rabbits.