In James Weldon Johnson’s adaptation of the parable of the prodigal son, he states, “Fall down on your knees, and say in your heart: I will arise and go to my Father.” The father in the story of the prodigal son anxiously waits his son and then celebrates when he returns. It is easy to envision all of heaven in celebration.
Which communities in our nation wait with the father’s anxiety for racial justice? For many of our brothers and sisters of color, racism and segregation are ever-present realities. 21st–century segregation and racial attitudes affect our tap water, segregated school systems, neighborhoods, health care—and seep into our political discourse. Segregation persists, yet many of us do not admit to being part of it. The son says, “Father, I sinned against heaven, and I have sinned against you.” The celebration awaits the sinner.
Like the father in the gospel reading, the heavens await our reconciliation. The party is not far off. Just as the prodigal son was lost and now found, dead and brought back to life, we too have a celebration waiting. However, the celebration Jesus speaks of is the joy that fills heaven after a sinner repents.
There is no celebration without the sinner. Let the party begin!
- Do you worship in a community that is racially diverse?
- What would it take for me to help the Father celebrate racial harmony in my own community?
- Have you ever had a face-to-face conversation with someone who has experienced racism?
Mario Powell, S.J., is the REACH Program Director at Regis High School in New York City.