Meditation: What's worst than being separated from your home,
loved ones, and friends? The pain of separation can only be
surpassed by the joy of the homecoming and reunion. When God
commanded his people to celebrate the Passover annually, he wanted
them to never forget what he did for them when he freed them from
oppression and slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them back to
their promised homeland which he gave as a sign of his immense love
and favor. At the end of their wandering in the wilderness for 40
years, Joshua, the successor to Moses, led the people in celebrating
the Passover meal after they had safely passed over the River Jordan
to their promised homeland (Joshua 5:9-12).
Our true homeland with God
This crossing over from a land of slavery and oppression to a land of promise and freedom is a sign that foreshadows the true freedom and homecoming which the Lord Jesus has won for us in his kingdom. Through his victory on the cross the Lord Jesus has delivered us from the dominion of sin and darkness and transferred us to his kingdom of light, truth, and forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). God offers this freedom to all who believe in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not desire the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:23). That is why he sent us his only-begotten Son to set us free from slavery to sin, Satan, and death and to restore us to everlasting peace, joy, and abundant life with our Father in heaven.
The merciful Father who welcome home his lost son
Jesus illustrates this passover from slavery to sin and condemnation to freedom and new life in Christ with the longest parable recorded in the Gospels (Luke 15:11-32). What is the main point of Jesus' story about two ungrateful sons and their extravagant loving father? Is it the contrast between a grudging obedient son and a rebellious son who had wished his father was dead? Or the warm reception given to a spendthrift son and the cold reception given by the eldest son?
Jesus does contrast the eldest son's cold and aloof reception for
his errant brother with the father's warm embrace and lavish
homecoming party for his repentant son. While the errant son had
wasted his father's money, his father, nonetheless, maintained
unbroken love for his son. The son, while he was away, learned a
lot about himself. And he realized that his father had given him
love which he had not returned. He had yet to learn about the
depth of his father's love for him.
His deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed on the husks of pigs and his reflection on all he had lost, led to his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father. While he hoped for reconciliation with his father, he could not have imagined a full restoration of relationship. The father did not need to speak words of forgiveness to his son; his actions spoke more loudly and clearly! The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life - pure, worthy, and joyful - of every person who returns to God.
Forgiven and restored to new life
The prodigal could not return to the garden of innocence, but he was welcomed and reinstated as a son who had been missed much and greatly loved by his father. The errant son's dramatic change from grief and guilt to forgiveness and restoration express in picture-language the resurrection from the dead which Jesus makes possible to everyone who believes in him, a rebirth to new life from death.
The parable also contrasts mercy and its opposite -
unforgiveness. The father who had been wronged, was forgiving. But
the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving. His
unforgiveness turns into spiteful pride and contempt for his
brother. And his resentment leads to his isolation and
estrangement from the community of forgiven sinners.
God's mercy and kindness knows no bounds
In this parable Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly kinder than any of us. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray from him. He is always on the lookout for those who have a change of heart and want to return. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home. Do you know the joy of repentance and the restoration of relationship as a son or daughter of your heavenly Father?
"Lord Jesus, may I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/