“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!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://ramblingsfromtheambo.blogspot.com Deacon Mike Meyer

    What a beautiful meditation on a great parable. Thank you for sharing that. This weekend marked the second time that I have preached on the Prodigal Son, and I found it very difficult both times. The Gospel is so rich that it’s difficult to choose what to preach about. Although I went into homily preparation convinced that I had nothing to say about the Older Son, the Holy Spirit must have thought otherwise. The homily can be found at ramblingsfromtheambo.blogspot.com if your interested.

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  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    We must have been on a similar wavelength. I was struck with that sentence too yesterday but my focus was caught by the latter half of the sentence, the he “was filled with compassion” part. I never noticed that before. It’s not just that the father was ecstatic about the returning son – which is what I thought was the central emotion – but that his heart was moved by the shredded appearance of the young man.

    I have to say that this is not my favorite parable. I guess the parable of the sheep and goats or the woman at the well (if that’s a parable) or the good Samaratan would rank higher for me. I think I identify too much with the older son in the Prodigal Son parable…lol.

  • Barb

    I’ve been stewing over this parable for two weeks now. We read it in our weekly life group and our pastor preached on it this Sunday. Last December my son attended the Urbana conference and linked me to one of the speakers (can’t recall his name but from India). He preached on the same passage. His retelling struck me to the core. The father’s love is extravagant, lavish, beyond measure. While the filthy, stinky, tired, reputation-ridden younger son was coming home, probably to jeers and taunts, the father lifts up his skirt and runs to greet him. This was totally uncalled-for behavior of a middle-eastern, well-off man. It was humiliating. But the father wears the humiliation and embarrassment that the son was carrying. Takes it from him…takes the attention off the son and puts it on himself. He removes our shame because He is overjoyed to see us return to Him. Wow. What love the Father has for us.

  • Brian English

    I think one thing that is often missed in this parable is how extraordinary the father’s actions are in the culture of the people Christ was speaking to. This was a rich and powerful man, who was the respected patriarch of his family. People would be expected to come to him in humility to seek his approval. He would not be expected to go running to anyone.

  • Victor

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

    Anchoress! Every so often, I guess that The Holy Spirit moves me to write http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/03/09/saturday-salmagundi-11/ and there’s times when “I” really don’t want to go there but I guess the pro he gal, “I” mean the prodigal child in me goes anyway. Long story short, about an hour ago, I wrote something very deep at that site which could have even fit here but longer story short, a couple of our grandchildren were also not able to copy and paste “IT” for me and “IT” was eventually all lost.

    Anchoress! Call me crazy but the WAY I see and believe “IT” is that GOD (Good Old Dad) really is the Father of our soul, The Holy Spirit is the Father of our Spirit and all of our flesh cells is really children of “Jesus” The Christ.

    I hear YA! We’ll all be “ONE” big happy family when we finally accept that “MOTHER MARY” is really our spiritual Heavenly Mother NOW!

    Really Anchoress?


    Go Figure folks! :)


  • http://elizabethk-fthnfort.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth K.

    So interesting–that was exactly the line that struck me yesterday, as well. I thought about how the father was waiting and waiting for the son to just turn around and start back–that’s all it took, and compassion filled him. I’ve been terribly worried about one of my own children, recently, and I was comforted by the compassion our Father has for both of us at this time.