THE PRODIGAL SON
Archbishop Mary Floyd Palmer
Philadelphia Council of Clergy
Luke records a well-liked story best known for its theme of forgiveness and restoration. Here we find an impetuous young man who makes a rash decision to leave the sanctity and security of his home on a whim, without a plan, to enter a world unknown to him. His curiosity about living life beyond his familiar place led him to make a defiant and disrespectful demand of his father. Instead of saying “no,” his father simply complied.
At first, all seems to be well. With money as his resource, he explores several places, has newfound friends, and life is good (or so he thought). He quickly squanders his money without good management of it and his survival beyond the good time is threatened. Desperate, he turns to “friends,” and is faced with the harsh reality of rejection. You see, his value was determined by what he had and not who he was. Now alone (no friends), homeless (on the street), hungry (eating out of trash cans), and hurt (feeling betrayed), he remembers home, his Daddy’s house. Somewhere deep within himself, the prodigal son knew he could return home, no matter what. So, in the worst state of brokenness, he shows up at the one place of shelter, safety, and security he had always known. All he wanted, desired, and needed was to be back in his Daddy’s house.
His return is better than he expects. His father greets him, hugs him, and kisses him and is just so glad to see him. The father must have spent nights wondering how his son was doing out there, where he was, whether he was okay. He may have also been praying that God would watch over him. His son was willing to suffer any consequence, even servitude, to make up for the disappointment he caused. But his father would not allow him to live under shame, guilt or rejection. Instead, his strong father bore his son’s weakness and chose to reconcile and restore him.
Understand that in the midst of joy, there will be “accusers,” whether family, friend, or expected foe. In my own experience, I had “older brothers” whose job was to constantly remind me of my past offenses. Surviving domestic violence and near death for me and my children was hard enough; but I knew that I had one place of safety—my Daddy’s house. There I was shown the true spirit of reconciliation, but not without consequence. It was hard work to get my desired life back, to persevere through ridicule, rejection, and rebuke. It is easy to be angry and bitter, but so much better to work through those feelings and yield to the power of repentance. Once you do embrace God’s love, grace, and mercy, all else doesn’t really matter. I, like the prodigal son, am so grateful to have a loving Father who knows all, sees all, and forgives all. All anyone has to do is get back to Daddy’s house. Don’t delay! Do so today.