By Gerry Fischer, associate director, Campus Ministry
I have had a hard time identifying with the character of the prodigal son. I cannot even imagine having the expectation of getting an inheritance from my father. Even more, I can’t imagine asking for such an inheritance from my living, breathing dad!
I am personally pretty frugal, and I am not one to make rash decisions. If I did come into some money, I would not be likely to spend it foolishly. I am just not the kind of person that would let one poor decision affect my life in a drastically negative way.
As I thought more deeply about this, it occurred to me that while the young man in the story has a dramatic and seemingly sudden separation from his father’s home, many of us find ourselves more in a slow drift from our relationship with God. There is nothing dramatic. We are slow-motion prodigals.
The problem with a slow-motion prodigal is that change can go unnoticed. Long held ideas and values can be eroded in our small choices and our slight indiscretions. We often can find people to endorse these wanderings because they support their own steps off the “straight and narrow.” It may not take very long until we feel disconnected and lost from the person we used to be.
Some of our worst departures from God-centered values are examples of slow-motion prodigals as a society. I am sure it took some mental gyrations, off-centered conversations and time to believe that it is ok to view a race as less than human, selling them into slavery. A similar devastation happened with the Holocaust.
Now, we are facing an increasing movement that dehumanizes Muslims, refugees and immigrants. How did we get here? A large enough number of people drifted away from the truth of who we are—humans created in God’s image who are loved unconditionally.
The good news is that we can wake up. We can decide to make that long journey home. Our Gospel story reminds us that God is keeping vigil for us and is waiting for our return home. And God’s home is a place of love and mercy beyond our ability to comprehend.