Some years ago, a woman by the name of Barbara Kingsolver authored a book entitled Prodigal Summer – a story about a young woman who got pregnant during a particular summer within which everything seemed to be unusually fertile – insects, animals, trees and humans too.. The earth was teeming with a luxurious richness of seed, with new life in evidence everywhere! Nature is like that, at times teeming with an overly-abundant fertility. Why else do we have 90% more brain cells than we use? Why else does nature scatter billions of seeds all over this planet every second of every day? Why else does the universe continue to explode with the birth of countless new stars? From our point of view, it all seems so wasteful, so...prodigal!
The dictionary defines “prodigal” as “wastefully extravagant or lavishly abundant.”
This describes the very God that Jesus reveals to us. God, as we note in nature, in Scripture and in our experience, is overly generous, overly forgiving, overly patient. God is the absolute opposite of everything that is stingy, miserly, frugal and narrowly calculating. God is prodigal beyond measure! We see this in the familiar parable of the Sower. God is the sower, scattering seeds everywhere – on the road, among the rocks, on bad soil, on good soil. No human would do this. No human wastes precious seed on places that will never yield a harvest. God, it seems, would. God, it seems, has an infinite number of seeds to scatter all the time,everywhere. God is overly generous, merciful and forgiving – yes, prodigal, beyond our wildest imaginings.
For you and me, this is both a challenge and a comfort. The challenge is for us to learn to respond affirmatively to God's countless invitations to be found on our paths each and every day. The comfort is that, no matter how many of God's invitations we ignore, there will always be more. If we've gone 39 days of Lent without prayer or sacrifice, there's still the 40th day to respond. If we've ignored God's invitations a thousand times, the thousand and first invitation will soon arrive.
If we look back on our lives honestly, we'd admit that we've accepted just a small fraction of God's invitations. And for each invitation accepted, we've probably rejected dozens of others. But the beauty of God's wasteful and patient generosity towards us is in our Gospel, our “good news” that anchors our hope where we might otherwise have only deep despair. Millions upon millions of God's life-giving seeds blow everywhere every second of every day. We need only to pick up some along the way to grow in love, to experience the “life in abundance” Jesus promises! Thank the Living God for this prodigal generosity!
(based upon a homily of Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI)