God Gratuitously Rejoices When People Return to Him – So Do It and Be Truly Free (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #18)
by Erik Ritland
"There are many ways to explain the truth: scientifically, through literature, poetry, philosophy, stories, and more. The story of the Prodigal Son tells this truth: that God rejoices gratuitously whenever somebody turns back to Him."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
The prophet Micah preaches of God’s desire to forgive us and his faithfulness. The parable of the Prodigal Son tells of God’s reaction when a person turns back to Him.
Readings: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20/Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.
(cf. Mi 7: 14-15, 18-20)
As human beings, we’re bound to miss the mark and do things that we shouldn’t do. If kept inside, it festers, it becomes nearly impossible to get over. Either that, or we ignore the bad things we do and never grow.
God shows His faithfulness to us, just as He did to the Israelites, by forgiving our wrongdoing if we are honest about it, confess it to Him, and try our best to not do it again. Only then can we be truly free from the burden of the wrong things that we do.
Coming to his senses he thought,
'How many of my father's hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants,
'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.'
Then the celebration began.
(cf Lk 5: 1-3, 11-32)
Many people, especially those who are far from God and have been for a long time, think that their sins are too terrible for God to forgive. So they despair. They sometimes get angry with God, or even the idea of God, and especially the Church.
If we turn to Him, God promises to forgive our sins and free us from the guilt and shame that we feel because of them.
But wait, there’s more.
He doesn’t just want to forgive our sins, especially the sins of those who have been far away from Him for a long time. He is so happy, so thrilled, so excited when it happens, that He celebrates in His heart, as this parable shows.
There are many ways to explain the truth: scientifically, through literature, poetry, philosophy, stories, and more.
The story of the Prodigal Son tells this truth: that God rejoices gratuitously whenever somebody turns back to Him. When you make the choice to do this, you become truly free, truly the fullest version of yourself.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.