A few years ago, I wrote about some revelations I’d had about the parable of the Prodigal Son. I used to loathe the parable until I finally prayed that God would help me understand it better. Since then, this parable has become one of my favorites to contemplate.
The parable came up again in this liturgical cycle, and I found myself at Belmont Abbey College for Mass with my daughter. The monk who delivered the homily did a great job, and I was left pondering this parable in a completely new way.
My older daughter has fallen away from the faith; she became disillusioned with the Church when the McCarrick scandals broke right on the heels of the Pennsylvania grand jury report last year. She told me she didn’t want to go to Mass any more in light of these things. She was nearly 20 at the time, and she moved out by the end of the year. There was nothing I could do but pray for her return.
In light of this, the Prodigal Son parable holds all-new meanings for me. As the parent of two adults, I don’t have control over how my girls practice their faith – or don’t practice it. I can pray, I can remind them of their upbringing and what I’ve tried to teach them about being Catholics. But I can’t make them go to Church or Confession. I can’t make them adhere to the teachings of the Faith that they don’t agree with.
When I was young, I was angry with that father for how easy he was with the younger son, but now that I’m a grown-up with grown-up children, I just want to go up to him and say, “I get it now!” I get the idea that you just want your children safe and with you, and that you’ll be quick to forgive – even when the contrition you see is far from perfect.
What I also see now is how God is with us. I mentioned in the article a few years ago that the father in the parable never stops searching the horizon for his son, and God is like that, too. God never stops searching the horizon for us when we’re lost and trying to wander home. I’ve understood that for a while now.
But what I’ve learned since I wrote that article is that when we worry about our children who have fallen away is that as much as we search the horizon, God does so even more. As much as we love our children and want them to return, God desires that even more. And when we grow weary and impatient, and we lose our tempers with those wayward children, God doesn’t do that.
When I worry about my daughter wandering, I say a Memorare for her and mentally hand her off to Jesus and Mary. And now I understand that this is exactly what I need to do. Because God will never stop watching the horizon for her to turn around and start to walk back. And when she does, He’ll meet her out in the fields and carry her home Himself.
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson