I think if I had to choose just one Gospel passage to reflect on for the rest of my life I would choose the parable of the Prodigal son. Already I have probably spent more time with it than any other piece of Scripture mainly because it raised issues for me and I knew that if I could stay with it until it revealed God’s word to me, it would change me. For a long time I couldn’t get my head around the idea that the Father could love these two sons so much, that they could be in the presence of such love, and not experience it. How could it be? I can understand it happening with a human parent. Many of us I’m sure only under stood how much our parents loved us, when we got to the stage in our own lives, where we were able to see how much we loved others in spite of our woundedness and oft times the damage our unresolved issues may have caused. But this is God. His love is untarnished by human sin or weakness. There are no projections, no hidden agendas, no demands. Then how is it that one son takes off and the other stays but seems to resent being deprived the very thing he stays for, his Father’s love and approval? He was physically present but was as oblivious to the depth of his father’s love for him as his brother was. And I, when I let the unsettled feelings I had around all this surface, found myself resenting God, blaming God for not getting through to them, or not making it clearer. In my head I knew the fault couldn’t lie with Him but time after time I had to grapple with it. I was identifying, with these sons. I was n’t experiencing God’s love either, not with the certainty I wished to have, not as a felt experience, even though I professed to believe that ‘He loved me with an everlasting love and was constant in his affection for me’. But God doesn’t give up, on them or on us. No matter where life brings us to, God is always present, always active in the situation, always wanting to bring us home. In truth the sole purpose of all our journeying is to bring us to a place where we are confronted with the Father’s unquestioning love , a moment of truth that still contains a choice, Do I enter the Feast or do I remain outside?

God’s love is unconditional and perhaps the reason we don’t experience it is because we are unable to conceive of or receive an utterly gratuitous love. When we are ready to receive freely then we will experience what is freely given. Our motives don’t even have to be pure we just have to know our need. We just have to accept the invite to enter the banqueting hall. There we will discover that his banner over us is love.

These two young men, one a long distance away, the other close at hand, have in fact one and the same journey to make. We are put on this earth to discover God’s love for us, to share that love with others, to be participants in the heavenly banquet. If we are outside whether we are a foot away or miles away God’s eyes will be ever watching, yearning for a glimpse of us, ready to usher us in so that his joy and ours may be complete.

We are left hanging at the end of this story.  Does the elder son hear what the father says? Even as he expresses his anger, jealousy and resentment, are the Father’s coaxing words, that most beautiful affirmation, the words he had so longed to hear, ‘You are with me always’ do they get through? In the very moment when he brings his bitterness into the light is he set free? Can he now hear his Father who is aware of all the negativity in him, telling him that he sees something more. He knows that his son is with him always. We don’t know for certain how the son responded but surely this text is given to us in Lent to provide us with the opportunity to place ourselves in the story and finish the tale.