During this season of Lent, I will be working through Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Gospel Reflections (available through Word on Fire). Each day, I will share the readings and the reflection question, followed by my own thoughts.
March 27, 2022
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable:
11 “There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’
And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’
28 “But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Lk 15:1-3, 11–32). (2006). Ignatius Press.
How has God relentlessly pursued you throughout your life?
There are so many layers to today’s parable…the Gentiles as the prodigal son, and Israel the responsible older brother who is angry that that the one who hasn’t been meeting expectations is being rewarded; people who have committed grave sins but later convert as the prodigal son, and “respectable” middle-class Christians as the older brother who is angry that the one who squandered their time and talents is being accepted by the Father; me as the prodigal son, having presumed upon God’s love, taken His blessings for my own selfish gains, and run away from His direction…but the constant here is God, the Father who is always watching and waiting for our return, eager to embrace us when we come back to Him.
The last few years, I’ve come to really identify with the prodigal son in this parable. I was baptised in the Catholic church as an infant, but while I was still young, my parents converted to Protestantism. I was raised in a Christian home, but I had a lot of questions that the denomination I grew up in (Charismatic Word of Faith Protestantism) couldn’t answer. I moved out and left the church shortly after graduating, and basically put my thoughts and beliefs to the side. After several years, though, I decided to go back to church. I started attending a new church. It was still a Protestant church, but it was more conservative than the denomination I’d grown up in. I started asking questions again, and I began reading about the faith.
One day, I came across a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity; I’d loved The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, so I picked it up on a whim. As I started reading it, something really awakened in me. I began to dig in, trying to understanding what I believed, and why I believed it, and whether I knew it was true. While all of this was going on, the pastors of our church began to jockey for power, resulting in a devastating split. Our church ultimately closed. During this time, my wife and I had children, and I started working graveyards; my faith once again got pushed to one side. I stopped attending church. My wife started attending a Pentecostal church that some relatives attended.
When we got into something of a routine again, I began to do more research into the various denominations and beliefs of Protestantism, looking into the basis of their beliefs. I attended the Pentecostal church now and then with my wife, but I knew that it wasn’t where I needed to be. I began to wrestle with my faith in earnest. I wanted to find the truth that the early church held. I started looking at the beliefs of the Reformers. My wife and I visited a Dutch Reformed church several times; we met with an elder to ask questions, but I couldn’t reconcile their practice of infant baptism with their rejection of baptismal regeneration.
We then began to attend a Reformed Baptist church, which I believe to be the most Biblically sound and logically consistent of the Protestant denominations. I loved it there. Every sermon was basically a Bible study; we had such a connection to God’s Word. We sung hymns reverently and prayed faithfully and lived truly. I began to read The Story of Christianity, a book about church history. But then something changed. One of the members of the church suffered a brain injury, and after treatment, he suffered a severe personality change. He committed a serious sin and would not repent of it. We were told that this meant that he had never been a Christian, and we were asked to pray for his salvation. This didn’t sit right with me at all; however, I wanted to make sure that my feelings weren’t out of line with something plainly taught in Scripture. I began researching and stumbled across a debate between James White (a Reformed Baptist apologist whose writings and podcast I really enjoyed) and Trent Horn (who I hadn’t heard of) entitled, “Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation?”
That debate was the catalyst for a massive shift in my life. I was entirely convinced by Trent Horn’s argument that Scripture clearly teaches that we can lose our salvation. White’s assertion that nobody can ever leave the faith – and if they seem to, it means that they were never saved to begin with – didn’t hold up. I found out the Horn was a Catholic apologist. As I continued reading more about church history, I came to realize that the early church was the Catholic Church. And as I continued learning more about Catholic beliefs, I came to realize that the concerns I’d had about their beliefs were misrepresentations or caricatures. I saw that I hadn’t looked far enough back when I was in search of the beliefs that the early church adhered to. I got in contact with a local Catholic church and had a meeting with a wonderful gentleman (who was later to become my Confirmation sponsor) who took the time to answer the many, many questions that I had.
I might share more of my story another time, but the point is this: At my baptism as an infant, God in His grace left an indelible mark on my soul. And no matter where I went or what I did, He kept on slowly but surely pulling me back to Him. When I finally came home, He met me with love and open arms.
Thanks be to God!