You can frequently discover someone’s fresh insight into God’s mercy when they suggest that the prodigal son parable should be re-labeled as “the Prodigal God.” In fact author Timothy Keller has done just that in a short but insightful and powerful little book. The title is actually The Prodigal God. So maybe it is foolish to revisit this topic. After all only fools rush in where even angels fear to tread. Yet at the same time I am not uncomfortable with the “foolish” label.
Let me suggest that the youngest son in Luke’s parable persists in his spendthrift ways for a number of years—maybe three, four, perhaps as long as five. Each day of each year, I imagine in my mind that the father walks out to the end of the drive not far from the highway—thinking that perhaps this will be the day when my son will reach down deep into his memory. Perhaps this son of mine will realize that no transgression can ever blot out this fatherly love. Perhaps this child will weigh his empty pleasures against his father’s never-ending and intense eagerness for re-union. Yet each day, after repeated walks to the end of the drive, the father’s highest hopes turn to tears. One can hardly count the number of tears. Yet mixed with the tears is the burning thought—maybe tomorrow.
Then, on one of those days, when the father goes out to the highway as he has done countless times, there is his wayward son asking for mercy. And now again there are tears, miraculously turned joyful. Little do we know the number of tears the Father sheds to have any of us back in his arms.
—Jack Goldberg is a retired trial attorney. He and his wife Barbara live in Cincinnati. Jack is the moderator of the Moot Court competition team at St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati OH, and an alumnus of St. X.