This week our Biblical reading included the story of the Prodigal Son found in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. I find it quite interesting that the story of a son who leaves and then returns is paired with the parable of a shepherd leaving the rest of the flock to find the one who is lost. How do these two passages share an overall message of God? Better yet, what do we learn about the character of God?
If understanding both the shepherd and the father as God-like figures, one concludes that God never stops searching for the one who is lost. He does not share his love like a democracy, but for the well-being of the entire flock. No one will ever be left behind, as holy arms will discover us in our moments of complete darkness. We once lost our way, but then the Divine found us and led us back home. Praise be to God for radical love that searches even for one like me!
The story of the father who sees the younger son return from a grueling journey does not cast his child away but welcomes him home. We learn that not only will God never leave us, for on the son’s heart, his father wrote a message of unending hospitality, but he also welcomes us back when we lose our way. Indeed, the son ran back to the father. But where did he get the thought of the possibility of returning home? He saw the treatment of others and knew that hope loomed in his father’s house. His return home did not end in failure and settling for scrappy seconds, but a celebration, complete with a banquet and into the welcoming arms of God.
We learn through these two parables that God wants us to come home. Whether He must look for us or divine arms await our return, we find our place in the presence of the Most-High. So, it seems like the parables placed side by side are not meant to be compared with one another, but to present us with a rich, deep, and broad understanding of the Father’s love for us. We move forward in the hope and knowledge that we are God’s children, cared for, and welcome into the Holy Presence of our comforter, redeemer, and holy parent.