A preacher once said that if only one parable from scripture remained after an apocalyptic event of some kind, the story of the prodigal son would be enough to preserve the essence of the Gospel for future generations. While the son is the main character, it is the father’s compassionate treatment of his profligate child that bears witness to our Heavenly Father’s love for humankind. As the son rehearsed what he would say as a means of atonement upon returning home, the father was already poised to forgive him without reservation. Scripture is silent as to how much time had passed but seems to indicate that the father had been keeping watch for him every day during his absence. The following account from the Gospel of Luke speaks of the father’s unconditional love and forgiveness:
“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” (Luke 15:20-24)
God patiently waits for all His prodigal children to return to the sacramental life and receive forgiveness, love and reconciliation in the Eucharistic feast. The ministerial priests, our spiritual fathers, preside over the miracle that takes place at every Mass to give “strength for the journey” for all of God’s shepherds.
On Father’s Day we celebrate those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, those currently with us, and all who have assumed the responsibility of sharing God’s love through the unique role of fatherhood.