The Parable of the Lost Son

The God who won’t let go. Peter van Bremen SJ

Chapter 5

The parable of the prodigal son (or more accurately of the merciful father") is called evangelium in evangelio, the gospel within the gospel, the heart of the good news of Jesus. It is so simple that a child understands it and so profound that no person can fully plumb the depths of it. The story begins with the request of the younger son for his share of the inheritance. itance. He is entitled to it, but he wants it prematurely. He cannot wait until his father has died; he wants it right away. He wants now what should be given to him later. He makes his rude and self-serving claim without any respect for the feelings of the one who gives it to him. He demands an autonomy omy which ignores the existing dependence. The father respects the free will of his son even though the latter abuses that freedom. The father is a wise man who understands that this departure is inevitable no force in the world can prevent it. He exerts no pressure, no pressure to stay nor any pressure to return. With that respect he gives his son a most precious gift which will later make a return possible. ble. God never coerces. Here we see the greatness of God's power and the openness of God's love. God surely wants to gain our affection and our dedication, but God always leaves us completely free. Even in the most critical of situations, God respects our freedom.

God, Lost and Found.

God lost and found. John Pritchard pg 73.

Christian faith is therefore best seen as a quest for deep wisdom. To make it into a package of certainties is to demean the Creator and open ourselves to misunderstanding or irrelevance. If we have struggled with God, or lost sight and sound of God, perhaps it’s worth stepping back from too much certainty and sense of ‘arrival’ and allowing faith to be a quest (and indeed a question). The honesty of the humbler path means that we can spend a lifetime on a journey of joyful exploration of a God who will always leave us speechless. The journey may well take us into the mystical way of silent encounter, when words fall away and Presence speaks straight to the heart. Or the journey may take us back to the person of Jesus, the person in whom the divine lightning finally struck the earth (of whom more later in Chapter 11). Either way, we can step back to a less assertive position and turn our longing gaze to a gentler God.

Prayer Richard Foster

Prayer by Richard Foster Pg 23



I would like to offer one more counsel to those who find themselves devoid of the presence of God. It is this: wait on God. Wait, silent and still. Wait, attentive and responsive. Learn that trust precedes faith. Faith is a little like putting your car into gear, and right now you cannot exercise faith, you cannot move forward. Do not berate yourself for this. But when you are unable to put your spiritual life into drive, do not put it into reverse; put it into neutral. Trust is how you put your spiritual life in neutral. Trust is confidence in the character of God. Firmly and deliberately you say, ‘I do not understand what God is doing or even where God is, but I know that he is out to do me good.’ This is trust. This is how to wait. I do not fully understand the reasons for the wildernesses of God’s absence. This I do know; while the wilderness is necessary, it is never meant to be permanent. In God’s time and in God’s way the desert will give way to a land flowing with milk and honey.


GOD, WHERE ARE YOU!? What have I done to make you hide from me? Are you playing cat and mouse with me or are your purposes larger than my perceptions? I feel alone, lost, forsaken. You are the God who specializes in revealing yourself. You showed yourself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When Moses wanted to know what you looked like, you obliged him. Why them and not me? I am tired of praying. I am tired of asking. I am tired of waiting. But I will keep on praying and asking and waiting because I have nowhere else to go. Jesus, you too knew the loneliness of the desert and the isolation of the cross. And it is through your forsaken prayer that I speak these words.


The Second Collect for the Week after Ascension.

Such a beautiful collect, which sums up the experience of absence of God as we continue in contemplation, which can be a worry for us, or a mystical reality we enter into.


O God,

you withdraw from our sight

that you may be known by our love:

help us to enter that cloud where you are hidden,

and to surrender all our certainty

to the darkness of faith

in Jesus Christ.