Day 18: The Porch Light
BY LUKE GUIMOND GILMORE | March 11, 2023
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.
Thank you for this reflection. How many commercials end with something akin to “We’ll leave the light on for you!” Turn it around…Jesus IS the Light, always on.
My favorite line in this reflection is: “Even when we stray, God always leaves the porch light on to guide us back home.
Thank you Luke for sharing your discovery of the light in your pilgrimage. I have found Fortunate Families to be such a light for meaningful ministry with the LGBTQ+ community. For me this group demonstrates the relevance of the current initiative of moving from a hierarchal to a synodal model of church.
Wonderful, Luke. I identify as both sons and the parent, depending on what day or season of life I am in. The complexity of life.
But I love the reminder that God leaves the light on for us and never expects perfection. Just an honest willingness to keep trying and be better tomorrow.
Compassion, for others and our selves.
The porch light is perfect symbolism for this parable.
Building communities begin with building relationships.
So often the hardest are in one’s own families. With more and more reliance on social media and less and less face to face communication the number of misunderstandings seems to be increasing. I only hope that one day our children will return knowing they will be welcomed with open arms just as the prodigal son was.
I left the porch light on last yr waiting for my adult daughter who had attempted suicide and then estranged herself from me to contact me.I felt angry,sad,helpless and lost but somehow knew she needed space and time to recover.I thought about all my feelings and realized they stemmed from my love for my child.I put my faith in Gods unconditional love for me and decided to wait and let her know of my unconditional love for her. I waited and loved with the support of friends and the knowledge of Gods presence.today she is doing well,she and I are in touch and I try to be the porch light for anyone who has lost their way
I would have to say I identify with the parent. I have such respect for the prodigal child because I see a heart of contrition, love, trust, vulnerability, and an openness to himself and to others. I feel a great deal of piety for his brother struggling with the desire to do right, his feelings of being taken for granted, but most of all his unwillingness to forgive and letting go of the hurt and sorrow he had experienced.
Being a parent, I so feel for the father – the joy and total happiness of his son’s return; the relief of knowing that he is safe and that awe that must fill his heart, as he recognized the change of heart and mind. I truly get it! It is the knowledge that God, himself, looks at me that way as I come to grips with knowing myself and my desire to change and be a new person.
I think God is calling me to “return” in my own life by being forgiving, understanding and repentant to those who have hurt me or those I have hurt. I need the courage to reach out as the prodigal son did as it takes a lot of courage to “face the music”.
As for me building communities that welcome those who are marginalized, I can only do it with love and respect to others and the desire to accept them regardless of their station in life.
Truly, it is only love that can accomplish this. Both the father and the prodigal son demonstrated this. Not to mention the love of the Father for us. — Yes, I too can leave the porch light on.!!!!
Thanks,Luke for this.!!!!!
Thank you Luke for this reflection. I wish every church community could welcoming to our LGBTQ brothers and sister and all our marginalized family. Jesus taught us well but we are not always open and loving like He showed us. God loves you!!!!
Conversion is an ongoing and a never ending opportunity. We need to pray for the conversion of Pharisees and Levites in our society.