Daily Reflection
March 6th, 1999
Todd Salzman
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The readings today give us great hope and joy during the Lenten season. The readings from Micah and Luke’s Gospel focus on the unconditional love of God that does not entail judgment or condemnation but total, unconditional acceptance. God never withdraws God’s love. It is we who choose to alienate ourselves from God in and through our choices, dispositions and attitudes, and it is we who must seek reconciliation from that alienation.

I must admit that “The Parable of the Lost Son” is my favorite parable. This parable most clearly articulates God’s unconditional love for human beings, and the lack of judgment or condemnation regardless of all our shortcomings, failings, and sins. In the parable, not only does the son violate just about every familial, social, traditional and religious custom imaginable, but also when “he came to himself,” even his conversion is less than exemplary. “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!” Being plagued by hunger, loneliness and desolation, it is the fulfillment of human needs that initially causes him to return to the father seeking forgiveness. It is quite striking that when the son returns to the father, the father never says, “I forgive you.” To do so would imply judgment, separation or condemnation on the part of the father. It is the son and his behavior that breaks the relationship; for the father, there is no break in the relationship, no condemnation or judgment of the son. Only rejoicing when the son returns to the father, no matter how broken and imperfect, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.

The paradox of the “Lost Son,” between what would be just treatment of the son according to tradition and custom versus what is the father’s unconditional acceptance and rejoicing in the son’s return, can serve as an example of the paradox of Lent as well. Lent is the period of the liturgical year that invites us to focus on the periods of waywardness and sinfulness in our own lives, where we choose to alienate ourselves from God. Lent encourages us to repent and to accept God’s unconditional love. It is also, however, a period of great joy. It is in and through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we prepare ourselves with great anticipation to make room for Christ, and allow Christ’s unconditional love to embrace us on the day of resurrection, just as the Father runs out and embraces his lost son.

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