“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” St. Luke gives us these words in his narrative of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. By taking the father’s perspective in this moment, I can imagine staring into the horizon, hoping and waiting for my son’s return. Then I see a small figure in the distance, struggling towards us, indecisive, lost. A while later I recognize my son; and, driven by fatherly love and mercy I start sprinting towards him to help him finish his journey home. When I meet him in his path, I hug him, take him by the arm, and together continue the journey home.
If I change my focus and stand in the son’s place, the scene changes dramatically. I can imagine myself being hungry, cold, angry, frustrated, and most of all lost. I have decided to return to my father’s house, but I doubt he will welcome me, and my wounded pride keeps urging me to save whatever little dignity I have and turn back. I keep on going, and off in the distance I see my home. The memories of my storming off in rebellion come back into my head, and I stop. I cannot bring myself to walk back, enduring the pain and humiliation that I would have to endure. Then, in this moment of hesitation, I see my father’s figure running towards me, arms extended, with a smile and tears in his face. I am stunned, I tell him that I do not deserve his love or his forgiveness; I try to pay him back by offering to work as a servant. However, he dismisses my claims and expresses his love for me. Lastly, my father puts his arm around me and guides me to my home.
This mental picture illustrates God’s love for us in a very powerful and emotional way. It shows us our Father’s willingness to go out of his way to meet us wherever we are in this life. Despite that our pride creates obstacles, despite that we sometimes doubt that we’ll be welcome, and despite that we are unworthy sinners, God is always reaching out, hoping and waiting for our return. What’s most beautiful is that when we realize and accept these facts, we will find that God will come and lead us to our home in heaven.