But so often — despite God’s free forgiveness — we’re still left many of the same tendencies, the same personal defects, the same circumstances that cultivate and cause us to sin. God sees those but doesn’t kick us out of the house.
That’s why we need ongoing conversion. That’s why we show up here at Mass, week in and week out to hear the words of forgiveness, to eat the food that is Christ himself.
It’s why we take seasons like Lent to reflect upon the places where we’re falling short, to gather together in small groups and communal worship to lift each other up. To let things in our lives be unhidden no matter whether we’re covering them up with trench coats or happy faces or even fancy robes.
We might be as lost as that wayward son in the parable or just someone like that teenager who found herself in a tough circumstance she wasn’t immediately able to share. But if we let ourselves, we can be found by the God who never stops pursuing us.
Some of you might not be able to identify with the image of a forgiven son or an embraced granddaughter because you haven’t had that experience from people in your life, at least not recently. There may be people in your life who didn’t give because they didn’t have it to give.
The goodness and mercy in women and men can run out. What God gives doesn’t run out. God overflows with mercy. God is rich in mercy, and he’ll always find a way to spend on us. I was reminded that the word prodigal didn’t originally mean repenting sinner but refers to reckless spending of money, the actual sin of the lost son. He recklessly spent money on partying.
We probably should call the parable the “Parable of the Prodigal Father,” because it points to a God who recklessly spends on us, spends his mercy.
As we wrap us this Lent, look for this God. Perhaps in your experience of prayer. Perhaps in the embrace of a parent or sibling or classmate or best friend. Perhaps, even, in an encounter with a stranger like the grandma whom I still think of nearly every day.
Know this: This God sees you, knows you and will never reject you. All you have to do is let yourself be found. The journey could be as long as a 17-hour bus ride from Ohio. It can be a short as the 3 to 50 feet you’ll walk up the communion line a few moments from now.
You can even bring your trash bags.
Chip Wilsonis a deacon in the Diocese of Charlotte, serving at Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont, North Carolina. He is a recovering newspaper journalist and husband of Terri and father of Christopher.