The Good Word for Sunday March 6th ~ for the complete readings click here.
The late, great radio host and social commentator Paul Harvey used to sign off his broad cast with the phrase, “And now you know…the rest of the story.” If you ever heard him on the radio you probably just imagined him speaking those very words in his gruff, but kind voice.
I want to know the rest of the story when it comes to our gospel today. We are all very familiar with the story of the prodigal son that Jesus tells in our gospel. We may be so familiar with it that we simply assume we know what it says. Younger son asks for his inheritance, goes off, feels bad, returns home, dad welcomes him, older son upset, and that’s it.
But I want to know what happened next. What happened the next morning when the older son went out to work the fields, all of which were his? What did the father say to the younger son then? What happens in 15-30 years when the Father dies?
Of course we’ll never know because it is parable, a story told by Jesus to make a point. The point is that no matter what, father shows mercy to his younger son. Yes, even though asking for his in heritance is like the younger son telling his father he wishes his father were dead. Yes, he squandered his money on licentious living. Yes, when he returns home he really isn’t sorry, he is just hungry. Yes, the son never really apologies. Nonetheless, the father loves unconditionally and welcomes home his son with open arms. The point is that no matter what we’ve done (even if we were tax collectors and prostitutes, the very people Jesus is telling this story to) God will welcome us home if we return to him.
I get that. But I can’t help but wonder about the next day. See for the father to give his son half of his inheritance, he didn’t just write him a check. No the son’s inheritance was the father’s land. So to give it to him, the father had to sell it. The next morning when the younger son stood in the kitchen with a cup of tea and looked out the window at his father’s property, he probably saw a new fence and strangers (or the neighbors) farming what should have been his land. What was that like for him?
God is merciful. The theme of this Holy Year is “Merciful like the Father.” Yes, God is merciful in a profound and almost irrational way. He loves us more than we can even understand. And there will still be consequences when we turn away.
The good news is that though this is the last we hear of the brothers, our story isn’t finished yet. When we do return, God will welcome us with open arms. If you are feeling burdened by the consequences of your sin, go back to God anyway. If you are worried you won’t be good enough, go back anyway. If you can’t imagine a God who would want you in heaven with him forever, return to him because God desires to be with you more than you know.
Who do you miss? Think about someone you miss and what you would do to be reunited with them. Then thank God for his unconditional love for you.