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Photo: Detail of Rembrandt van Rijn, "The Return of the Prodigal Son" c. 1662.

'Come Back to God'

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By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Aug 13, 2010)
As many of you know, in the story of the Prodigal Son as found in Luke Chapter 15, the son asked the father for his share of the inheritance without waiting for the father to die. The son packed his belongings and left to a far away country where he squandered all the money. Because of famine, he found himself hungry and working with swine. He decided to go back to the father, asking for forgiveness. While he was yet at a distance, the father saw him and embraced him. The father asked for the best robe, put a ring on the son's finger, and asked for the fatted calf to be killed. His older brother became jealous, but the father told him that it was fitting that they celebrate, because the younger brother was dead, and is now alive; he was lost, and is now found.

The story is one of my favorites. I, like many of you, have been the prodigal son. Several years ago, during a time of personal crisis, I was forced to look at myself and ask, "Is this what life is all about?" But it was that difficult time that I faced a fork in the road; it gave me the opportunity to heal and grow.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, we know that the son went to a far off country. In my life, the far off country represents being distant and away from a close relationship with God. For all of us, it can be the result of materialism, workaholism, and a thirst for things of this world. The desire to be "somebody," and live in a world of illusion where worth is based on the car you drive or the size of your home.

And, in the story, after the son had spent and squandered everything, he was hungry and would have eaten the cornhusks that the pigs ate if they had been offered to him. I think that for many of us, it takes a crisis to realize that we have been living in a far off place, and that we need to do something about it.

I was always struck by the fact that the father saw the son returning from a distance. You see, the father was not confined to his eloquent quarters and going on with life like nothing had happened. No, he was out looking for the son, walking and pacing the grounds hoping that he would return. And that is how God is with us. If we make one step towards Him, he will take 100 towards us. He is the Good Shepherd, out looking for His lost sheep.

And remember how the father put a ring on the son's finger? I suspect at that moment the son realized that he was of nobility — there was an awakening. So many of us wander aimlessly through life, never realizing that we are beautiful sons and daughters of God!

We have all been like the Prodigal Son in our life, and even like the jealous brother. How many times we look askance at someone trying to come back to God. We judge, criticize, and mock them, beating our breasts like the Pharisee, saying, "Lord, I sure am glad I'm not like him."

But we are also called to be like the father, forgiving and loving those who have hurt us, and giving thanks to God when they repent. But many of us hold on to anger for years and years. We say we have buried the hatchet, but we all know where we have it buried. And, we must learn to forgive ourselves. The father in the story of the Prodigal Son was forgiving; he did not keep reminding the son of his past transgressions. Likewise, we must learn from our mistakes and move on, for all the guilt, shame, and self-doubt does nothing but hold us back.

So today, ask yourself if you spiritually live in a far off country — imprisoned by the chains of materialism and secularism. And if so, come back to God, for He is waiting for you with open arms!

"Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace," Jesus says to St. Faustina. "Tell [all people], My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls" (Diary of St. Faustina, 1074).

Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

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