This most famous story of the New Testament is known colloquially as The Prodigal Son but since he is only half the story it ought to be known as The Compassionate Father. Both brothers fail to honor their father's generous love-the younger one by squandering his inheritance and the older by showing jealousy and contempt for his brother. We are at times both of them. Sometimes we wallow in the mud of selfishness and squander the good things God has given us in the darkest places. We stray from God and take advantage of all sorts of evils in order to feed are selfish appetites. And other times we are jealous, filled with contempt, even hateful or angry. In our own insecurity we hate to see others receiving anything good. In the end pride drives us to commit the sins of both brothers.
But in all things, whether we are stirred to conversion and plead for mercy, or whether our hearts are still hardened and our self righteousness prevents us from humbling ourselves to beg for the Lord's forgiveness, God still comes out to greet us, to welcome us, to celebrate our conversion or to invite us to take the next step back to His table. The compassionate father is never far away and his love always surrounds us.
As a Church we need to have the courage to speak the truth in love and proclaim both the justice and the mercy of God. For those who are separated from the sacraments because of an irregular marriage we need to love them enough to share with them the truth of what the Church believes about marriage and her process of an annulment. The Lord is inviting them to take steps which seem difficult but which in the end is a process that brings healing and closure. Having received an annulment the individual can then come to Jesus in communion with freedom of conscience and joy of heart. Through the ministers and the faithful of the Church the compassionate Father reaches out to those who have been separated from the table of the Eucharistic celebration and invites them to begin the process of return. The compassionate father wants all of his children around his table and through the canonical ministry of the Church He offers a means of healing and reconciliation. The annulment process is not something to be feared but to be embraced as a path to spiritual health and unity with the church. May the Lord continue to guide us to a greater understanding of Himself and give us the courage to do what is good holy and just.
May we never forget the ocean of mercy that is available to us in Jesus Christ there is always hope for a fresh start through the Sacrament of Penance. There is always hope of eternal life.