A man had two sons.... So begins perhaps the most famous and beloved of the parables of Jesus, one that is so rich it has different names depending on what is being emphasized: the prodigal son, the lost sons, the two brothers, the generous father, the prodigal father, God....
So many themes could be teased out from this parable that occurs in the 15th chapter of Luke's gospel, a chapter that is often called the "gospel within the gospel." One theme will do for this reflection though: God is always with the lost.
The parabolic father longingly looks down the road for the return of his lost younger son and runs to him--a most un-patriarchal activity--when he catches the very first glimpse of him. The parabolic father at the end of the story comes out of the festivities inside the house celebrating the return of his lost younger son and pleads with his lost older son to come inside. That is how the story ends: the father is with the son who is lost.
The father is always with the son who is lost. The younger son had been lost in his greedy, pusillanimous ego; the older son is lost in his bitter, pusillanimous ego. The father is always with the one who is lost. God is always with the son or daughter who is lost. He will not go back inside to the celebration until he exhausts his pleas of loving magnanimity, until he has caught sight of the first stirrings of return of his wayward children even far down the road...which means he won't go back inside. Because the story ends with the father (God) pleading with his lost son. God is always with the lost.
A beautiful reflection I found is the story about a Jesuit priest, Fr. Greg Boyle, who works in the heart of the gang world in Los Angeles. Entitled Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, there is this gem:
All Jesus asks is, Where are you standing? And after chilling defeat and soul-numbing failure, He asks again, "Are you still standing there?" Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) -- that didn't end in the Cross -- but he couldn't find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced. You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship.
God stands with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. A man had two sons.... God is always with the lost...all of us.