Last Thursday, when I was driving in Warner Rd, Chandler, I passed by a church that’s called without walls. In Tucson, I’m not sure if it’s still in existence but yo recuerdo there’s one bearing the title, the cool church. Perhaps, what they have in common as any other Christian community is the tremendous sense of welcome to everyone especially sinners regardless that perhaps will put to shame others, far behind in hospitality. I bet you can’t find a mean church, a self-righteous church, or a church minus the guilt. If there’s anything, it’s probably the Catholic Church from the outside. I had a conversation with a young fellow who’d been out in the church for sometime now and wanted to come back. He claimed that there was no excuse for his absence and took responsibility for it. However, it didn’t diminish his sense of the sacred. He described his very own as forgiving, not condemning.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is considered to be the best short story ever told. It stresses the unconditional love and forgiving nature of God to any repentant sinner. Rembrandt’s painting perfectly portrays the younger son down on his knees embraced by the loving and welcoming father immensely captures the depths of its meaning. It’s a story that must be seen in light of the immeasurable love of God more than the gravity of our sins.
Here’s a Father who acted stupidly, who at the request of his younger son gave his share of the family’s estate without consulting anyone. The wicked Son took his money and left home, spent it all, ran out of resources, lived miserably, worked as a servant feeding swine for survival and coming to his senses, decided to come back home. I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers (Lk. 15:18-19).”
On the way back, even from a distance, still a long way off, the moment his father caught sight of him, he rushed, embraced him, kissed him and gave him a lavish welcome party raising his dignity into a son and not merely servant with a new robe, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. This is plain stupid in human terms, as in most cases talk about tough love, any parent probably will let him pay for the damages done and the embarrassment associated with it, make him suffer the consequences before any possible restoration, an act fair enough to other siblings. But the father acted differently, surprised everyone by turning our standards upside down. He forgave, accepted and welcomed his younger son without any recrimination, no strings attached, all good, no hurt feelings at all in spite of what he has done for as long as he’s back and even threw a lavish party for him. “This son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found (Lk. 15: 24).” Isn’t that crazy?
Maybe, this is what we need. A genuine heartfelt embrace letting us know how much we’re loved more than what we deserve. A story is told about a problematic kid whose parents became desperate sending him to medical experts to find out what was wrong and asked for healing to no avail until they were told to see a Rabbi who simply gave him tight hug without saying anything and everything went well ever after. Amen.