The Personalist Project

A rare and wonderful thing happened yesterday. The deacon who gave the homily at a Mass featuring the story of the prodigal son actually preached about repentance!

I can't say how many times I've heard homilies on that passage that focus entirely on "the merciful father," who ran out to meet his son "while he was still a long way off." The homilist typically stresses that God's mercy is available even before we repent, and then goes on to urge his listeners to realize that we are called to imitate the father by forgiving those who offend us, even when they haven't repented.

It's a favorite passage of those who preach and teach what I have called dysfunctional or unprincipled forgiveness.

But our good deacon took a different tack. He pointed out that the son's realization of his condition and his decision to turn back toward home were prerequisite to his receiving the grace of forgiveness. God's mercy is ever-ready and super-abundant, but it won't avail unless we recognize that we need it, and then act by moving toward it.

The Father's waiting on our choice and action has nothing to do with bitterness or crabbedness or revenge; it has everything to do with his respect for our personal dignity and freedom.

I say the same goes in human relations.

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