Waiting to Forgive
By Father Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, and
Vicar General for Special Projects, Diocese of San Jose
Ron Rolheiser, the great Canadian theologian and priest, maintains that each of the characters in this Gospel of the Prodigal Son is an archetype for all people. We play each of the characters in this Gospel at different times in our lives.
He says when we are young, like the younger son, we want to do things our way and insist on our will. We often distance ourselves from God’s will and take whatever inheritance we have and do whatever we want. Sometimes, that is not very far from God’s will but it is still our will. Sometimes, it is a long way from the Father’s will and we squander so many of our years. We are content in our own ignorance of doing what we want and we believe it makes us happy. Somehow we make our way back to God and seek to discover God’s will for us.
Then we arrive at middle-age and we enter into the older son’s role, where we reflect upon life. We become a little sad about so many lost opportunities. We think longer about all the things that we will never get to do in life now that we are past “our prime” and we become bitter. We get frustrated at the duties of life, whether it is taking care of our elderly parents or other commitments of life. We become like the older brother, who is resentful of the duties of life and even though we do them, we do not have joy in our heart because we wish we could run off and do our own will.
What we are called to is the final archetype, the Father. The Father, who stands outside the door for both sons. He goes out and greets his younger son when he sees him returning; looking for him; waiting for him; and when he comes, he celebrates. But equally so with the older brother, who refuses to come inside the house for the party; he comes out and he greets the older son and pleads with him to come in to the table of celebration.
God the Father reaches out to us no matter where we are in the story. Whether we are the younger child off in the distance, doing our distant thing away from God. Or whether we are the dutiful child and we do not have the joy of celebration of living our life. The challenge for us is to be the Father, who is welcoming the opportunity to forgive. The Father is the first one to forgive. He is on the doorstep, on the outside, welcoming in both the younger and the older son.
We should try our hardest to be the Father of forgiveness. To sink deep into our own hearts and to realize it is God that first forgives us and therefore, we ought to go to the doorstep of our house and we look out to all who have hurt us. Look for the opportunity to welcome them home; to forgive; and to celebrate the gift of forgiveness.