Today at Mass we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son. It has always been a classical favorite for the teaching of forgiveness. It is used in our children's catechism textbooks as the bible reference for the teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For me it is the first reference I have to God the Father as loving and forgiving as opposed to the God who wiped out the whole earth with a flood or burned Sodom and Gomorrah for the wretchedness of mankind. This parable speaks volumes about who God is as a father to us, yet the history of the flood and those two doomed cities reminds us of the power of God and his presence in creation.
The Prodigal Son is about so much more than returning to God and seeking forgiveness. God gave us an incredible gift in our intelligence. He trusts us to use our intellect for the good of all mankind. We are given this higher intelligence to make choices that are in alignment with what God wants for us. Ironic that when we speak of beings with higher intelligence we usually refer to aliens from outer space...just sayin'.
It's comforting to know that if we mess up because we have chosen that which goes against the will of God we can come back and seek forgiveness. We know God will forgive and with His grace grow in wisdom and knowledge. God wants us to choose for the good, He wants our choice to be a loving choice. We are all prodigal sons and daughters. As we learn from our sinfulness, hopefully we see the wisdom of God and we come to know what is the good, our good as well as the good for others.
As the father in the parable allowed the son to make his choice, God allows us to make our choices. It is up to us to think about what the consequences of those choices will be. Too often we don't see beyond the immediate gratification of our wants, we don't look at the big picture of who the choice affects. We are too influenced by "if it feels good, do it" mentality. Sometimes there will be difficult choices that bring pain. The father most probably felt pain knowing it wasn't going to end pretty for the son, but he let him go anyway. God experienced much pain giving up His only Son for the sinfulness of others, yet He did it out of love for us, His children of Creation. This could be the perfect example of "divine tough love". No parent wants to see their child hurting or in pain, yet there will be times a parent has to let the child learn by experiencing the pain. It's how we grow, it's called life.
We as parents can then be there to welcome those children home, to love them, comfort them and feel for them. What a gift we will give them, to help them build character and to watch them as they move along the journey God has called them to.