How the parable of the prodigal son defines our relationship with God | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The parable of the prodigal son is probably among the top three most quoted parables from the Gospels. Interestingly, it appears in just one Gospel, Luke. I suspect close to 100 percent of Christians in the “age of reason” know this parable.


I asked 10 people: What do you think would have happened to the prodigal son if he did not realize his mistake?  What if he realized his mistake, but did not apologize to his father? What do you think would have happened to the father if his son did not come home and apologize?


The responses to the lack of realization all painted a life of misery for the son. Four had interesting points. One referred to the lack of awareness and acceptance of sin as the work of the enemy, a second traced the misery to not realizing his true inheritance, which is his father’s forgiveness and acceptance. A third pointed to grace in the realization and acceptance of one’s mistakes, and the fourth related the lack of realization to being a slave to one’s pride.


Not apologizing after realizing his sins also yielded a common response: not being at peace, feeling burdened, miserable and broken. All agreed that the father would seek and reach out to the son without losing hope that the son would come home if the son did not repent.




The story of the prodigal son defines our relationship with God.


Often we try to figure out if we are the prodigal son or the other son, but if we are to look deeply into our heart and soul we will discover that we are both. The two sons have obstacles in their life and person that prevent them from going home to the love of the father.


The prodigal son realizes his and chooses to clear the obstacle to grace by going home to ask for forgiveness. The other son is in a more insidious situation. The obstacle to grace is disguised in what Ignatius of Loyola calls as an angel of light; the enemy, the evil spirit disguised as “good,” in this case being obedient and not causing trouble. Yet one sees how this is a misunderstanding of grace—that we can work for it and this becomes a sense of entitlement. It distorts the very nature of grace which is freely given.




The invitation to reflection this Sunday is to consider the obstacles to grace in our life.


Not being aware of and/or not accepting our mistakes, failures and sins is an obstacle to grace—the work of the enemy, as one of my friends put it.


The blame game is quite common. Even as a joke, it reveals much about our psyche when we say that in the Philippines nobody loses an election or a contest. There are only winners and those who were cheated.


We compromise our sense of what is good and right and agree to the least of all evils. We end up accepting people in government who are corrupt because they are all corrupt anyway.


The desensitization of our moral self deadens our sense of righteous indignation. This in turn makes us prey to historical revisionism that glosses over, if not denies, human rights violations and summary executions. It even makes us consider these transgressions as a solution to criminality and violence.


I feel this is the appeal of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It makes us rediscover our own story, which is the struggle to come to terms with our sins and failures. This inspires us to also choose to go back home to God and to apologize, “’Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you…”


And as another friend said, the misery of those who fail to realize and apologize for their sins is not knowing their true inheritance, which is the Father’s forgiveness and unconditional acceptance.

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