The parable of the prodigal child is one that we all know. It is one that we learned at a young age—one sibling wants their inheritance early, receives it, then squanders it in a faraway land before returning home. In different instances, we can all relate to each character. Some might focus on the prodigal child’s journey, others on the child who remained, and others still on the parent’s reaction when their child returns, for that child was returning to potential humiliation and rejection. However, what we see is acceptance, love, and joy.
Remember, “the Lord is kind and merciful.”
The child who remained is unhappy upon the return of their sibling—not even knowing that they had returned or who they were until a servant relayed the information. Indeed, the sibling who remained protests about the celebration. They are righteous and feel mistreated. The parent’s reaction is to highlight that the older child has always been there, sharing in what the parent offers, yet the child’s righteousness blinds them from witnessing the importance of welcoming back those who have been lost. Unfortunately, we may feel tempted to be like the older child—and, therefore, the Pharisees and scribes. We should consider when we have treated the marginalized and those who have strayed as unworthy of God’s love or attention. This is an important reflection because the message that we need to draw out is that we are all worthy of love and attention.
This is important as we ponder who the marginalized are today. As a queer Catholic, there are many moments when I feel as if I am marginalized due to certain attitudes that wish to exclude queer people from the Church. This parable resonates with me—and with many others. Queer Catholics are often derided in a similar way to how the Pharisees and the scribes complained. This derision—often spoken in hushed tones and behind one’s back—can cause one to retreat and distance oneself from God. Yet it is possible to return and be welcomed back, for God is eager for us to turn back and enter God’s loving embrace. We should then rejoice about this return.
We might drift from time to time, but God will always be there for us. God has given us free will, which allows us to wander and to return. God rejoices when we come home. We must emulate our God and rejoice and love all those who were “lost” return. Our God’s love knows no bounds and is always available. Even when we stray, God always leaves the porch light on to guide us back home.
- Do you identify most with the prodigal child, the sibling, or the parent in this parable? How is God calling you to “return” in your own life?
- How are you building communities that welcome those who are marginalized?
Luke Guimond Gilmore is a graduate of Campion College at the University of Regina (Saskatchewan, Canada). He currently lives in Ottawa, Canada with his partner. At the 2022 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, Luke gave a presentation called “Confessions of a Canadian Gay Catholic: How the Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality Kept Me in the Church” to a packed room. He later went on to give the same presentation at three of the four Catholic high schools in his hometown. Luke is committed to making the Church more inclusive for queer and other marginalized Catholics. He believes as well that queer Catholics and their allies need to work hard to maintain current safe spaces and to work to create more.