Fourth Sunday of Lent
LK 15:1-3, 11-32
March 31, 2019

There should probably be a footnote to this reflection identifying the source of the story I am about to tell. But in truth, I can’t recall when or where I first heard or read it. On the other hand, the story should ring true in the hearts of all loving parents, to the point that it is part of the “public domain” and so beyond copyright laws.

Here’s the story as I recall it:

There was an elderly mother of an exceptionally large family. Nearing her death, some fairly insensitive person asked: You had so many children…which have you loved the best?

I would have expected her to reply: What a silly question…I love my children equally!

But that’s not how the story goes. After thinking for a few minutes, the lady answered: The one who needed the most love.

What a pearl of wisdom. The child she loved the most was the one in most need of her love at any given moment.

And so, we turn to today’s Gospel…the parable of the Prodigal Son.

There was a powerful restlessness that was driving the younger son to escape the safety and protection…and comfort of home and family. Whatever it was that was drawing him away, his father must have understood that there was nothing he could do or say to help cure the young man of his restlessness. He loved his child so much that he set him free…free to go his own way.

At that moment of family crisis, he focused all of his parental love and attention on the child that was most in need of his love…even to the point of endangering the security of the rest of the family by dividing the family farm. With a father’s eye and a parent’s wisdom, he came to the conclusion that there was no better way to love this son who was in such need of love than to give in to the selfish, reckless behavior.

And then he waited.

He waited for this extravagant gesture of parental love to impact the thinking and settle the wayward spirit of his child. Possibly, the very act of waiting was the most intense and demanding demonstration of this father’s love.

And then the young man returned.

The reason he came home is arguably less significant than the loving welcome of the waiting father. But then his focus shifted. The older son who had remained behind became the child in most need of his love. And the father’s patient and kind explanation was the very most he could offer. He literally opened his mind and his heart in an effort to prove his unconditional love for the faithful son.

The message here is quite simple. God loves us the most when we are in most need of God’s love. No matter how far we have wandered, God is waiting for us to come home. No matter how angry, or resentful, or hurt we might feel, God will open His mind and heart to us to help us understand how important and how deeply loved each and every one of us is.