Commentary on the Gospel of

John Shea, S.J.-Creighton University's Biology Department
We worship a God we don’t deserve. And we cannot even begin to imagine the love God has for us.

We have all experienced the deep hurt and pain when someone close to us turns their back on us, deceives us and betrays us. And the closer they are to us, the deeper the hurt. Take a moment to bring to mind the first person who comes to mind, the first person you think of when you read the words “betrayed” and “hurt.” Who comes to mind when you read the phrase “stabbed in the back”?

Now imagine actively seeking out this person. Imagine finding this person and, filled with compassion, running towards him or her. Imagine embracing and kissing this person, the one who treated you as if you were dead, the one who inflicted such deep pain on you and those you love.

Now imagine not only forgiving this person, but throwing a huge party in his or her honor. No expense is too great as you welcome with open arms this person back into your life. Has your imagination faltered at this point?

We find it so hard to forgive those who hurt us. We can barely muster up the desire to forgive those who betray us. Our imagination fails when we try to place ourselves in the position of the father welcoming back his prodigal son. The son turned his back on his own father, taking his inheritance and so treating his father as if he had died. Despite this indefensible treatment, the father forgives his son.

His own son. The closer the relationship, the deeper the hurt. And the closest relationship is that between God and us, between Creator and Creation.

Unfortunately, too many of us can easily imagine the pain and hurt the father must have felt. Yet we all struggle to imagine his forgiving response. But this is the God we worship. This is the God who loves us. This is the God who shepherds us, removes guilt, pardons sin, does not persist in anger forever, but delights in clemency and has compassion on us. We don’t deserve this God.

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