(taken from Bible Alive for Saturday 6th March 2021)
Did you know that the parable of the Prodigal Son is unique to St Luke’s Gospel? And yet, to believer and unbeliever alike, it is surely (along with the Good Samaritan) the most well-known and familiar of Jesus’ parables. For Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost. God is the God of mercy and kindness, always searching for us, always holding out to us the hand of forgiveness and reconciliation.
The wonderful thing about the three parables linked by the theme of something or someone being lost is that as we open ourselves up to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we enter more deeply into understanding God’s love for us. These parables have the power to literally change the way we think: about God, about his mercy and about his love. Too often our emphasis is on what we have done or will do for God, rather than on what God has done for us in Christ. In the parables the shepherd and the widow represent God, and the sheep and the coin represent us. Neither the sheep nor the coin achieve anything other than being lost. It is the action, the initiative, the search of the shepherd and the widow which results in the joy of discovery of what was lost.
You see, our problem is that we imagine it is we who have to look for God, and so we easily lose heart and give up. In truth, it is the other way around – God is always looking for us. The mystery of faith is that we pursue God only because he has first put this urge within us. It is God who gives us the grace to seek him but all along we are being sought by God. In being found by him we discover who we really are – children of God made in his image and likeness.
God’s pursuit of us moves us towards repentance, for it is in these moments of repentance, sorrow and contrition that we touch the reality of ourselves and the reality of God. As St Augustine of Hippo said “Desire only God and your heart will be satisfied.” In receiving and experiencing God’s amazing mercy, our hearts are renewed, refreshed and satisfied.
‘We taste thee, O thou living Bread, and long to feast upon thee still. We drink of thee, the Fountainhead, and thirst our souls from thee to fill.’ (St Bernard of Clairvaux)
We all need God’s mercy for we all have sinned. The only road back to God’s house passes through the mercy field. Mercy is God’s unmerited favour, of which we are “qualified” to receive because no qualification is needed. Both those who have gone far away from the Father’s house like the prodigal son, and those who are in the house like the first son, need God’s mercy and grace to understand deeply what it means to truly belong to God’s household.
(taken from God’s Word Daily Reflections 2021 St Pauls publication)