The Gift of Forgiveness

I hate admitting it, but there are several stories in the Bible that I find hard to like.

This weekend’s Gospel reading about the Prodigal Son is one.

Turns out, the reason I’m having trouble with it is that I’m hearing it too literally.

I’m the first child in my family. The one who’s tried to “be good,” “be responsible,” “be conscientious.”

The one who’s generally done as she’s been told.

So when I hear of this Prodigal Son squandering his inheritance, then begging to come back into the family, I nod my head.

Figures, I think disdainfully.

And when the father throws a party for that wayward son, what’s that about??


It’s a lesson we need to understand symbolically.

Jesus wasn’t talking about birth order; He was pointing out that we all need to be forgiven, and the Father in Heaven is willing to forgive.

Aren’t we all a little like that Prodigal Son?

God has given us countless gifts, yet we squander them shamelessly. Or we decide we’d rather have a gift that somebody else has instead of those we’ve got.

We try Him and test Him, seeing how far we can push.

We’re all like the older son, too.

Feeling like we’ve somehow “earned” God’s forgiveness. Living with anger and resentment when things don’t go our way, when we see others getting “more” or “better” than we have.

As if God giving someone else a gift takes something away from us!

Our priest said somebody did a survey of the medical profession and learned that only 10 percent of people’s illnesses are actually caused by disease. The rest, doctors say, stem from anger, fear, and resentment — emotions that medicine can’t cure.

Do you remember the movie The Karate Kid?

When Mr. Miyagi asks the bullied young Daniel why he wants to learn karate, Daniel replies, “Is revenge a good enough reason?”

Wise old Mr. Miyagi points out, “Then you’d better dig two graves, one for yourself, one for the other guy.”

Mr. Miyagi, you see, knew what Jesus was trying to tell us — that anger hurts us more than it hurts others.

That forgiveness is necessary for peace and health.

So instead of seeing myself as the “wronged” first son, I need to realize I’ve been “prodigal,” too.

And humbly accept God’s forgiveness.