The following blog was contributed by Adam P. Zoeller, a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.
“I know your works (behold, I have left an
open door before you, which no one can
close.” (Revelation 3:8).
Sitting on the couch waiting past the curfew of your adolescent son and/or daughter is an experience filled with anxiety and anticipation along with fear and emotional exhaustion. However, when the vehicle pulls into the driveway, the feeling of being overjoyed that their child is home safely can supersede any negative emotion. This shared experience by parents is not the basis for the parable of the Prodigal Son, but there are some striking similarities. “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.” (Luke 15:20-21).
The message behind this selected verse of the Lost Son story is the anticipation of and
excitement by which God rejoices when one of His children returns home. This parable of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Luke is a summation of the entirety of salvation history (God’s actions and people’s responses), from the Fall to the Promise. The message is reinforced by the evangelist by including the parables of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) and Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) in the same chapter. The unconditional charity displayed in these stories captures the infinite mercy of God while providing a model for parents as faithful leaders of their unique and respective domestic church.
The reckless behavior of the Prodigal Son does not fulfill his personal expectations of
happiness nor God’s desire for us. The story emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships which begin in the family. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11). The dynamics of the family have shifted and changed in our society, but the foundation of any family should be rooted in how we know, love, and serve God. Thus, the responsibility of parents is to maintain this standard in the family. What is the result of this standard? The answer is simple. The continual spiritual growth within the domestic church and the restoration of the relationships between families. This restoration can be seen in the witnesses of grace within families and communities, which in turn will provide a taste of God’s kingdom on earth.
- The New American Bible. (1991). New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.). Tools for Building a Domestic Church.
About the Author
Adam P. Zoeller is a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY. He has nearly two decades of experience in male adolescent education and formation; teaching in both Carmelite and Xaverian traditions. He earned his B.A. in religious studies and B.A. in clinical psychology from Spalding University (Louisville, KY) and his M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). He holds a Master’s Catechist Certification from the Archdiocese of Louisville. He has written blogs as well as presented workshops and webinars for the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), been published by the Catholic Journal of Education (“Tolkien’s allegory: Using Peter Jackson’s vision of Fellowship to illuminate male adolescent Catholic education”), worked on educational materials for Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story from Journey Films, and was an educational consultant for Ave Maria Press for their World Religions teachers manual.
Upcoming Projects: Adam is co-editor for Hollywood or History: An Inquiry-Based Strategy for Using Film to Teach World Religions (Information Age Publishing).
Adam lives in Kentucky with his wife and his three daughters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.