Here’s a beautiful article that popped up on my news feed one day:
This article is about is a guy named Josh, who used to be the president of the secular society at Arizona State University, who converted to Catholicism when he had a religious experience while reading the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He resigned from his presidency and has since changed his life, becoming active in the Catholic community at ASU.
I love this article so much because it gives us a real world example of how God is always calling us back to Him, even when we are so forlorn it seems impossible for us to come back to Him. He watches over us constantly as a loving father does, and all we have to do is answer His call. Of course, answering this call is not always the easiest thing to do.
When God called, Josh answered, despite the fact that his friends would probably ignore him, people would make fun of him behind his back, and everyone would be left thinking, “Huh?”
Why does the Prodigal Son Get More?
This story reminded me a lot of the parable Jesus told us. Son runs away, son gets lost, father takes son back into his arms wholeheartedly, everyone’s happy and parties the night away. I’m sure we’re all familiar with this reading (Luke 15:11-32).
As a child, I never really liked or totally understood this parable. I would be like, “What the? Why does the kid that goes off to have fun with his father’s money get to come back home and eat the fat cow? And why does the older brother, who has done everything his father asked of him, get a much skinnier cow to eat? That’s not fair at all!”
Totally understandable response to this parable (for a child, that is).
But if we put it in perspective, the prodigal son had to let go of everything to be one with his father again. His friends probably laughed at him, people probably looked at him in disgust, but it didn’t matter to him as long as he could be with his father. It was such a triumph in the eyes of the father that his son had come back to him, he through him the biggest party possible.
A Modern-day Prodigal Son
There are several things I saw in common between prodigal son parable and Josh.
First, in the beginning, there was a “victim” mindset against God. The prodigal son felt entitled to his father’s belongings and felt that his father owed him something, when in reality he owed him nothing. The older son also felt victimized, telling his father that he deserved way more than his sinful, foolish brother. Josh, on the other hand, felt that this God, if He did exist, had only brought him misery and despair throughout his childhood.
Second, after realizing their faults, they both had to humble themselves to the extreme. The prodigal son was reduced to almost nothing after his partying spree, actually longing to eat what the pigs ate. He came back to his father begging to be the least of the least. Similarly, Josh also had face the fact that his very rigid beliefs of religion were wrong. He had to abandon his friends and become essentially the laughing stock of the Secular society.
Thirdly, neither Josh nor the prodigal son had a huge religious experience that brought them back to God; no choir of angels from heaven, no mind-blowing, life-changing miracles. All that happened was a small change of heart. For Josh, it was when reading the Litany of the Sacred Heart, he had a religious experience where he accepted the existence of God. For the prodigal son, it was when he says:
“Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’” (Luke 15: 17-18)
God changed their hearts in the smallest of ways, giving them the smallest of insight, and the smallest of voices turned into the most deafening of shouts.
Are You Being a Mini-Prodigal Son?
So at this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “That’s nice and all, but what does this have to do with me?”
Well the fact of the matter is that when Jesus told us all of the different parables, He wasn’t just telling us some weird stories about sheep and mustard seeds so we could “cool story, bro” Him, He was giving us lessons that we can make applicable to our every day lives. Jesus is trying to show us how the characters in this tale are actually us. The indignant older brother and the party-hardy son, these are the people we, through the God-given gift of free will, choose to be every day.
So ask yourself, “How have I been like the prodigal son?” Do you feel entitled just because you follow Jesus? Do you expect God to give you what your rewards right now? Have you fallen away from God through little everyday sins, like being mean to your friends or being jealous of what somebody else has?
So now, like the prodigal son, the question you might be asking yourself is, “How can I make things better when I have messed up so much?” In the Catholic tradition, we repent through the sacrament of Confession, but for all faiths, we have to humble ourselves before God and repent.
So I leave you with this: Are you a prodigal son? Are you willing to allow God to change your life? And always remember, no matter what you have done or where you have been, God will always receive you with open arms and throw you a party of a lifetime in Heaven.
“But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:32)
Laurelin Ontai is a media intern for Campus Renewal Ministries. She is currently a junior at the University of Texas at Austin and active in her ministry at the University Catholic Center. If you have any questions or comments, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org