As we come into the final months of the Year of Mercy, I would like to share the following words from Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son (78):
“The father’s love does not force itself on the beloved. Although he wants to heal us of all our inner darkness, we are still free to make our own choice to stay in the darkness or to step into the light of God’s love. God is there. God’s light is there. God’s forgiveness is there. God’s boundless love is there. What is so clear is that God is always there, always ready to give and forgive, absolutely independent of our response. God’s love does not depend on our repentance or our inner or outer changes.”
Discipleship always come down to choice and intention: the choice to follow Jesus, and the intentional turning back to the love of the Father, away from things that distract. Pope Francis reminds us that it is we who tire of receiving the Lord’s forgiveness, that he never tires of forgiving us. Why not? Because we live in a daily spiritual battle. We see God’s love but through a broken image of perfection. As we turn, day after day, to God, we find that he has always been awaiting us, that indeed his love draws us closer in. His desire is to bless, not punish: “The father simply wants to let them know that the love they have searched for in such distorted ways has been, is, and always will be there for them.”
The story of the Prodigal, and his return, has very little to do with the sins of the younger or the older brother, and everything to do with the immense father heart of God: not to punish, but to cherish, to bless, to say good things over his children. And to call them into his plans and purposes.
Fr. Tim Nolt
YCP Austin Chaplain