Prodigal grace

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico S.J. - The Philippine Star

My mother usually gives me quotable quotes to live by. I usually do not discuss the impact of these quotes with her, but I am very much sure that she knows that I take these to heart, or at least reflect on them as I journey in life. One of these quotes has often re-echoed in my moments of solitude: “God cannot be outdone in generosity!”

It is a quote that reminds me of this Sunday’s reading of what we usually refer to as the story of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal? There are two ways of looking at that word. On the negative side, it is a description of someone who is wasteful. On a positive angle, it talks of someone who is lavish. And we can observe that in the said reading a lot of this “prodigal-ness” is manifested.

The younger son manifested this by taking all his inheritance and spending it all on the worries of the world. He wasted all the resources that he had taken from his father. The older son saw all this as an observer and complained about the wasteful actions of his brother whom he branded as someone who was worthless; he did not wish to have any part in his brother’s affairs.

These two sons were searching for meaning but saw the use of the family’s resources as wasteful.

When the younger son wasted everything that he had, he felt that he was entitled to the inheritance that he had. He even felt entitled to have a place to return to with a scripted plan in mind of branding himself as a sinner and asking to be taken in as one of his father’s hired hands.

When the older son heard about the reception that was given to his younger brother, he felt resentment. He felt that this ought not to have been given as it was not earned. His rigidity made him angry. His anger blinded him to what his father was already sharing with him.

The father would take none of these actions. But instead of showing a resentful reaction to his two sons, he demonstrated a different way of handling matters. To the younger son, he showed his love by welcoming him back. He would not have any of his son’s prepared script as he cut him off with a loving embrace. He put sandals on his feet, a ring on his finger, and celebrated his return with a feast. To the older son, who was much pained and bewildered, he went out of his way to approach him. He listened to his reasoning. He shared with him what was in his heart – why he chose to love lavishly.

We therefore see that the father also bore that characteristic of being “prodigal.” After experiencing the actions of his sons – one who felt entitled to everything that the father had, and another who felt that he had to earn his father’s favors, the father still understood them. He accepted them as they were. He loved them both in a most gracious manner.

The lesson that we gain in this encounter makes us also understand that the loving ways of the father are quite unusual in how we deal with life. Isn’t it that in our world, we still see these attitudes among people – scheming entitlement and rigid earning? Are not these attitudes the very things that divide the world? Entitlement breeds corruption, blinds the truth, and disrespects the rights of others. Rigidity stunts authentic development, brings a false sense of justice, and turns a blind eye to compassion. These cannot in any way reflect the love that God continues to shower on God’s beloved.

Indeed, Jesus’ parable is so rich to reflect and meditate on as we continue in this season of Lent. When we religiously search for meaning, can we begin to see our ways of dealing with people and even with our very own selves? To which son can you relate most? Are you even a mixture of the two?

In the moments of reflection that we can spare in our busy day to day living, can we just lose ourselves with the fact that we are much loved? To know that may be difficult to accept when we focus on our earnings and entitlements – or even the lack of these! The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving might even help us in our reflections.

I end by repeating what I mentioned a few articles back: God does not ask us to repay what He freely gives. He asks us to be free with no strings attached so that we may also be given the chance to lovingly respond in the best way that we can. This great attitude freely inspires and brings forth life. It moves us from a mentality of paying back to that of paying forward! – all because of grace.

How does God’s generosity move you? Can you allow yourself to be moved by God?

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