On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are blessed with the parable of the Prodigal Son, a familiar story of being lost and being found, a revelation that we all need. Why do we need such revelation? Because we struggle to believe that God's love is truly unconditional. Why do we struggle to believe that God's love is truly unconditional? Because we have no experience of any other relationship being one of purely unconditional love. Even in the best of relationships, there are some strings. And, in the best of relationships, we, of course, cannot expect to be celebrated when we have gone astray.
But, St. Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 8, verse 39, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus". "Nothing" means no that there are no conditions, and that, thankfully, we cannot break God's heart.
To acknowledge oneself as prodigal is to acknowledge onself as a sinner. It can be uncomfortable talking about sin. It is, in fact, liberating. I know that I am a sinner, that is, I know that I do not always love. I also know, in faith, that God is in loving pursuit of me when I break my own heart because I choose not to love.
We are sinners in the hands of a loving God. We are children of God who happily and gratefully acknowledge, when they do not love, that, although unworthy, they will be received, embraced, and celebrated unconditionally. Every time we receive the Eucharist, we have this type of experience. The Eucharist is our "welcome home".
Henri Nouwen, Dutch priest (+1996), in his book "The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming" speaks eloquently of being found and being welcomed home:
I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not "How am I to find God?" but "How am I to let myself be found by him?" The question is not "How am I to know God?" but "How am I to let myself be known by God?" And, finally, the question is not "How am I to love God?" but "How am I to let myself be loved by God?" God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home."
Lent is about coming home...
Gratefully yours in Christ,