Among the consoling passages in the gospel is the parable of the lost sheep. (Lk, 15: 4-7)  This sort parable illustrates God’s mercy and his concern for each individual, even for one who wanders away.  In his gospel this parable is followed immediately by two others: that of the lost drachma and of the prodigal son. All are in response to the Scribes and Pharisees complaining about Jesus welcoming sinners.   It seems Jesus wanted to be sure his message about God’s merciful intent was clear, repeating it three times.

These parables tell us that God in his merciful love reaches out to his children as though they were an only child, a unique object of his love and concern.  Imaginative writers have produced excellent parables.  But when it comes to reflecting sin in a parable even the holiest of saints could only take a sinner’s point of view.  Only Jesus had firsthand knowledge of God’s reaction to sin and the sinner. In the parable of the prodigal son, more than in any other, Jesus gives us an insight into God’s perspective.

Worth noting in the behavior of the prodigal son is that he was so sure of his father’s love he felt sure he could go back. That confidence was not misplaced.  Even before he could voice his repentance, his father welcomed him home.  Luke tells us: “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved to pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him.”

Only then did the son express his repentance.  The father’s love was so great he did not question the son’s motivation.  He accepted him even before the son expressed his sorrow. For the son repentance was not so much a requirement or a condition as it was an opportunity to return to his loving father.

And that is how God is ready to treat us  Even if we return only because following our own selfish desires has failed to bring us happiness, God will take us back   Even if we return because drifting has brought us less peace than being faithful, God will receive us with open arms.  Even if we return because our sins did not offer as much satisfaction as we had hoped, God will take us back.  Even if we return because we simply could not make it on our own, God will welcome us.  God will rejoice to see us returning and wants to give us all we desire, just for coming home.