“His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.” (Luke 15:20)
This week’s Gospel reading contains the parable of the Prodigal Son. A scene from this parable is beautifully depicted in a Rembrandt painting. Looking at the scene, I’m moved by the gentleness of the father’s embrace, the knowing compassion in his face, and the tenderness in the son’s semi-turned head, leaning into the father’s chest.
Although much of the parable involves activity – the father running down the road to meet his son, ordering the servants to bring items and slaughter the fattened calf, and the ensuing celebration which is so loud that the elder son hears it from afar – this scene seems reverently quiet and gentle.
The son appears before his father with no attempt to cover his condition. One shoe is off, he’s unwashed, his head is shaved.
Nearly everything about the son says, “I’ve sinned; I’m unworthy.” The father’s expression seems to say, “I know. Come here. Spend time in my presence.”
The way the son leans into his father, and the expression on his face, seems to reverently convey, “I need you.”
Reflecting on this image, I feel invited to come more fully before the Lord each day, with my sinfulness, failures and mistakes, my hurt, my hopes and plans. Rather than trying to change, fix, and do things by my efforts alone, I’m invited to allow my whole being to say to God, “I need you.”
In return, I receive a deeper knowledge of my identity: a beloved, fully known, daughter, dependent on her heavenly father who cherishes our time spent quietly together.
After the scene depicted by Rembrandt, the prodigal son is adorned with “the finest robe,” a ring of authority, and shoes to protect his feet along the path forward.
As God’s children, the Lord bestows on us gifts as well. We can be “clothed with dignity & strength” (Proverbs 31), filled with the Spirit and its fruits, empowered and protected by the armor of God, receive authority in his name, and are invited to participate in his work building the Kingdom.
Kneeling before the Lord, in the stance of the prodigal son, I hear the father say each time, “It’s not over. It’s a new beginning.”