One of my favorite small poems is called the "Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson. It is about a man who is fleeing from God. The man goes everywhere but the Hound finally catches the man. God does not let go of us. God always finds us.
"I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the Labyrinthine ways of my own mind.
Night and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbed pace deliberate speed". God as a hound, found the person.
Luke wrote two stories about being lost than found that are just before the Gospel. The first one is about a shepherd who finds he is missing a sheep. He (God) goes out and finds the sheep, calls together his friends, and says the sheep I have lost is found. God goes on to say that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than of the ninety-nine that do not need repentance. Luke is telling us that God will always seek us out, keep after us, until we are found.
The next story is about a woman (God) lost a coin and swept the floor and lit a lamp until she found it. When she found it she called her neighbors and told them about the lost coin she had found. "There is rejoicing among angels over one repentant sinner". Because God, who was portrayed as a woman, never gave up looking for most important thing in the world : and that was the sinner. The one that was lost was found.
Now I am going to reflect on today's Gospel about the a son that was lost. This younger child had the audacity to ask for his/her inheritance. This was never to be done in Jewish law--- to ask for your inheritance before the father was dead. But the father did give his younger child the inheritance. To me it was the parent's love, God's love that wanted the child to find himself, herself. The parent/God wanted to show his child that he was supported and loved.
The father was grief stricken to see his beloved son walk away from the only house he had ever known. I am sure he felt rejected and heartbroken because the child was betraying the values of his family and was betraying the unity of the family. Every day the father/God watched for his younger son to come back home. It was said in the Gospel that his father had seen him coming. That meant that every day the father watched the road for his child to come home. Everyday can be a long time.
Our God watches us on our path as we leave and journey on our way. God never stops us and turns us around because our God has given us a free will. God saw the younger child spend all of the inheritance. But the younger child was not willing to come back. Often we do not find our path in life and are always searching. God watches us struggle to do right and to come back in unity with the family of God when we decide.
I feel badly for the parent who watched for weeks, months, or even years. Every day the parent was watching for his child to come home. Many prayers were said, many tears were shed, and some days the grief was almost unmanageable. Perhaps we have a loved one who has strayed a distance from God and the family. The grief is almost unbearable. I also believe that God is grieving when we go astray. God is like the wounded parent waiting with open arms for us to come home. No matter where we have gone, no matter how long it takes, God wants to welcome us home.
Then, wonderful excitement is expressed by the parent. The parent/God sees his youngest child coming down the road. This parent RUNS to greet him. This is a very great gesture because the father is elderly should have waited for the child to come to him. If the parent was only concerned about rules and obligations, he would not have forgiven his child. Before the son can say anything, God/as father wraps arms around the child and hugs him in a huge embrace. This unconditional love of the parent is unexpected by the child. The large embrace is a sign that the child is still loved. Much healing was happening at that moment that cannot be expressed in words. The parent brings the child back home and declares that there will be a big feast.
Let's look at the reaction of the elder child. It is obvious that he does not share the joy in the younger sibling coming back home. He is jealous that now he has to share his parent with the wayward child. During the time his younger sibling was gone this older sibling thought that he should be entitled to all of the love of the parent. After all he did what the parent had wanted and he had been filled with such pride he could not accept the parents unconditional forgiveness of his younger sibling.
Now who is lost? It is the elder sibling. The parent God goes to his eldest to talk to him about engaging in the celebration. But we never find out if the eldest ever forgives his sibling and accepts the unconditional love the parent has shown. The story ends with the question of the elder sibling is still unresolved. Does the elder child ever find the way back home? We do not know.
The unconditional love and forgiveness of the parent God is truly a miracle. But is it truly a miracle? No it is not. Jesus has promised us that unconditional love is promised to all of us. Forgiveness is also in the bargain. No matter if we are lost so many times we cannot keep track, God always searches for us. As the hound searched for the one who did not want to be found, as the shepherd searched for the sheep that was lost, as the woman searched for coin she lost, as the parent God waited for his child that was lost, God will find us as well.
Then do not worry about your life and where you will go after you die. You are being called home to God who has enormous love for us. The love is so gigantic that it is indescribable. God is with us now, God has always been with us, and
God will be with us always.