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September 15, 2013

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Leonello Spada, Louvre Museum (PD-ARTlPD-Age-100)

Americans applaud a fresh start.

  • Lose 20 lbs.? You can buy a new wardrobe, and begin life over.
  • Have a little “work” done, around your eyes or middle? Have a couple of saline bags inserted in your chest?  You become the poster child for healthy self-esteem.
  • Go into drug rehab again?  You are cited for your courage.
  • Spend 15 minutes in celebrity jail?  Declare yourself a sex addict?  You are suddenly a model of rectitude.

Change is worth applauding, and should manifest externally.  But, first and foremost, change is an internal process.  So, too, with repentance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes repentance as “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil…” (CCC 1431).

In a day and age when institutional reputations are put ahead of the welfare of living and breathing human beings, it is not surprising that the concepts of repentance and responsibility are misunderstood – even by the very institutions charged with teaching those concepts to our young people.  Both the massive Catholic Church and Penn State sex scandals illustrate this.

The prodigal son returned repentant to his father [1].  Forgiveness and redemption were the father’s alone to give.  But he gave them without hesitation.

And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15: 20).

Father, we come before You like the prodigal, prey to fear and sin.  We long to be worthy of Your love; to trust without question. But, over and over, we fall short.

We know all bonds of sin were broken by the death of Your Son, Jesus.  Relying on that, we call out to You.  Forgive us, Father. Help us to feel Your arms around us.

Restore our hope, even in these difficult times, that we may faithfully serve You.


1  The Prodigal Son is the last in a trilogy of new Testament parables on redemption, the others being the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.  A son returns home after having squandered his inheritance, yet is welcomed by his father with feasting (Luke 15: 11-32).


One Comment
  1. In fact, those three parables: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son together forms the core of Lukan Gospel message.

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