The Prodigal Son Returns Home to the Father

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By St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

You can see that the divine patrimony is given to those who ask for it. We are not to think the father at fault for giving his younger son the inheritance. In God’s kingdom no one is under age, and one’s faith is not measured by one’s years. He who asked certainly thought himself qualified. Indeed, if he had not left his father he would have been unaware of the handicap of his age. But after he left his father’s house and went off traveling he began to experience need. Certainly anyone who leaves the Church has squandered his Father’s inheritance.

“He took his journey into a far country.” What can be further off than to have withdrawn from oneself? You are separated not by borders, but by behaviour; cut off not by lands, but by lusts; for you part company with the Saints once worldly excess has surged up. Whoever separates himself from Christ is an exile from his fatherland and becomes a denizen of this world. But we are not exiles and strangers, we are fellow-citizens of the Saints and members of God’s household! We who were once far away are now brought close by the blood of Christ. Let us not be grudging towards those making their way back from faraway places. For we too were in a far-off region, as Isaiah teaches us when he says, “A Light has risen on those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death.” The far-off land, then, is the shadow of death.

But we, for whom Christ the Lord is our very breath, live in the shadow of Christ. And thus the Church says, “I delight to rest in His shadow.” The prodigal squandered all his natural gifts by living riotously. Now you, who have received the image of God and bear His likeness, do not despoil that image by some filthiness which makes you less than human. You are God’s handiwork. Do not say to a piece of wood, “You are my father,” lest you take on the likeness of the wood; for it is written, “Let those who make those things become like them.”

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