“A long way off…” like me

I begin to think that yesterday’s Gospel reading — wherein Luke relates Jesus’ telling of the parable of the Prodigal son — is my very favorite parable of in scripture. Every time we read it I take away something wholly new.

Yesterday, it was this:

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.

Obviously, I’ve read the parable many times, and yet yesterday, it seemed like the Holy Spirit wanted me to really see that line. I took genuine consolation in it, and made it my lectio for the day.

“While she was still a long way off…” That’s me. Still so far off the mark; still so far away from where I want to be, still struggling to make my haphazard, sometimes lazy, sometimes whiney way to God. And yet, God sees me — catches sight of me, amid the whole world and all of creation — and is filled with compassion.

That gives me hope. And makes me grateful. And keeps me going.

Different parts of the story speak to us at different times, I think. Our deacon yesterday made a point to notice that for both sons, the father made the effort to go out to them — he ran out to the returning son; he walked out to the grumbling faithful son. He was too intent on being united with both of them to wait for them to come to him.

Anthony Lilles, on the other hand, was taken with “he came to his senses”:

When He tells us the prodigal son came to senses, this means something for our life of prayer. To hear the voice of the Father’s Word in our hearts compels us to deny our false judgments about life and to make a new judgment about the Father: this is to come to our senses. It is a moment of humility, a moment of trust, and a moment of compunction. It is the moment in which the Father finds us.

And too — as with the Deacon’s observation that the father stepped out to talk to the angry son — sometimes the father helps us to come to our senses.

It is so rich, this reading — so much to be gleaned from it — that I almost don’t want to let it go, just yet.

Msgr. Charles Pope shares his homily on it. Well worth the read!

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