Returning to daily Mass during the year of Mercy has led to me hearing the Gospel of the Prodigal Son more than once this Lenten season. I heard it at a Mass of Reconciliation, another daily Mass, and this past Sunday’s Mass. One line has struck my heart profoundly. It’s amazing that this can happen with Scripture. I’m not sure if it happens with other stories or novels because I am not an avid reader, but with Scripture, no matter how often you read or hear a passage, there is so much to meditate on.
“While he was still a long way off…”
The prodigal son had been away, we are not sure how long it took him to squander his inheritance, but he’d been on his journey likely a while. He was starving while working with the swine, so he must have still been hungry during his travels back to his father’s house.
I am sure you can recall a time when returning from a trip of some kind and being completely tired and knowing you still have a long way to go. You were hungry, and nothing was open because it was late. Usually, this is when I start to wish teleportation devices existed and that I could just be zapped home to my bed. You were alone, desperate to be home just to feel relaxed from the journey.
What must have been going through his mind when he saw his father running towards him, not yelling, “Get out of here, you are nothing to me,” which could be expected. He was running towards him with open arms, ready to embrace him and welcome him home. He ran a long way off to greet his son.
He ran a long way off…to a son who basically told his father he wished him dead by asking for his inheritance prematurely. A son who was so wrapped up in himself and his own desires. A son who planned to take his father’s hard earned wealth and spend it on things that only temporarily satisfy.
While we are still a long way off, we can be heading in the right direction. If we are willing to head in the direction of our Father, He will run a long way off to meet us there. He will not treat us as a servant, as a hired hand because of our sin or lifestyle, he will welcome us home as sons and daughters. Not because we could ever deserve it, but because his mercy requires it.