A few days ago I happened to read a beautiful book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri J.M. Nouwen, a bestselling writer, and pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada, who died in 1996. He portrays Rembrandt’s depiction in which the disheveled young son is kneeling before his old father in order to be blessed and forgiven. The tender way in which the father touched the shoulders of his young son was heart breaking and reveals a welcoming attitude.
Grief, forgiveness and generosity are the three ways by which the image of the father can grow in each one of us.
Grief: is the discipline of the heart that sees the sin and there is no compassion without many tears. The tears should well up from our hearts. To become like the Father whose only authority is compassion because His divine love is so boundless.
Forgiveness: it is very hard to remain at home and wait. In our communities and mission places have I dared to carry the responsibility of a spiritually adult person? Or becoming a welcoming home for those who have been hurt and wounded? There is a dreadful emptiness in this spiritual fatherhood which includes no power, no success, no popularity, and no easy satisfaction. We behave like the rebellious younger son and the resentful elder son. Henceforth both sons in us can gradually be transformed into the compassionate father.
Generosity: the third way to become like the father is generosity. The father gives himself away completely without reserve. The way the younger son is treated with robe, ring, sandals and a welcoming with a sumptuous celebration are the visible gestures of the generous father. In order to become like the Father, I must be as generous as the Father is generous. Today our great motivations are survival, self-preservation, self-interest, greed and power.
May St. Joseph, role model for fatherhood with his fatherly greatness, provide profound insights to imitate his virtues!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam